Best Dad Award Goes to the Seahorse
It seems the seahorse may be smarter than all other creatures when it comes to creating offspring. They do one thing hugely different; male seahorses carry the young while in incubation. Why?
Although the male seahorse shouldn’t be considered to be a caring, loving dad, per say, it is true that the seahorse is one of the only creatures on the planet to give the birthing process to the male. A unique and intriguing aspect to the underwater animal world, the male seahorse is a fish that shows that things can really be done a different way.
A characteristic that is applicable to all seahorses – pygmy and up – the uniquely evolved trait of men getting pregnant instead of the ladies is not the only particular evolutionary trait they developed. Seahorses also have the uncommon attributes of being able to grasp objects with their tale (like seaweed), a tubular mouth that can suck minuscule crustaceans out of coral and non-permeable bone plates under their skin for protection. These unique aspects are seen in all 32 recognized species of seahorses.
When it comes to getting knocked up, the seahorse mating ritual is one of the most beautiful of all species. The courtship, which can last for hours if not days, begins with a graceful dance that joins the twosome in a twirling tail swim that occurs with the rising of the morning sun. As their rhythms become more and more in sync their dance will eventually come to fruition with sexual intercourse that can be as lengthy as eight hours and terminates with the female expelling her eggs within a tiny pouch in the male’s belly. The man will then carry the developing fetuses for ten to 25 days depending on the species of seahorse. The eggs will eventually hatch within the pouch and will be pushed out into the world by the daddy, giving birth to as many as 2,000 offspring.
With such a lovely courting dance and a variation in the pregnancy roles, it is interesting to look at why scientists believe this to be the case. In regards to the seahorse shimmy, the dance is thought to be connected to creating a synchronicity between the two partners so the lady has better chances of making a direct hit when giving over her eggs to the male. Once the two have become one with their sexual dance, it is much easier for the male to accept the eggs.
Once the eggs are taken on by the male, he will fertilize them and allow the incubation to occur. At the end of the pregnancy the eggs will actually hatch within the male’s belly. During this time the male will create a virtual world for the babies by developing a salinity to the embryonic fluid that resembles the ocean. When the babies, also known as fry, are ready for the big world the male will thrust them out using stomach contraction to dry the little ones out.
So, why do the guys go to all this trouble? The reason is thought to be connected to the ability to have more children quicker. Without the lady having to deal with the pregnancy she can ready herself to impregnate a male again quicker than would be the case otherwise. For example, a male is able to have babies and be impregnated again the same day.
Talk about a work horse!
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