Monday, January 31, 2011

Seahorse Dads Give Birth To Stampede Of Babies

Seahorses are fascinating creatures for a variety of reasons, but one fact stands out among the rest - seahorse dads give live birth. And unlike many other animals, these proud pappas give new meaning to multiple births. Forget Octo-mom, seahorse dads are parental super heroes. Check out this cell phone video taken recently by Carol Haley, the Tennessee Aquarium's assistant curator of fishes.

You can't really predict when these guys are going to release their young, so it's hard to get a better camera in place when this happens. Even so, it's pretty amazing.

These baby lined seahorses are tiny, so we placed a toothbrush in the shot to give everyone a sense of scale.
These little guys have been stirring up a huge amount of interest, so here's an update from aquarist Elaine Robinson.
In the video, you’ll notice the babies racing away from dad towards the surface. There’s a reason for that according to Robinson. “When they are born, Hippocampus erectus fry swim quickly to the surface of the water to gulp air for the primary phase of swim bladder inflation,” said Robinson. “Lined seahorses tend to be pelagic, drifting near the surface of the water, in search of their prey.”

In the wild, breeding season for this species usually lasts from March until October, but the Tennessee Aquarium usually has H. erectus being born throughout the year. “They are capable of brood sizes of several hundred,” said Robinson. “But we usually only see numbers between 50 and 100 at the Tennessee aquarium. The number usually depends on the size, experience and health of the parents. Male seahorses are able to breed again within days of giving birth. We usually have H. erectus born about once every few weeks, but more often during the official breeding season.”

Once the juvenile seahorses reach maturity, the Tennessee Aquarium uses them to re-stock exhibits or donate them to other AZA-accredited institutions. “Most recently, we donated some to The Nashville Zoo and The Memphis Zoo,” said Robinson.

No comments: