The magnificent little seahorse is intriguing in appearance and in the way it lives. One of the interesting aspects about the seahorse is the reproductive process.
The mating dance is a seahorse ritual
The reproductive courting of seahorses lasts for a period of several days. In the early part of the courtship, the monogamous male and female seahorses swim side-by-side, often with their tails entwined. Seahorses perform quite a show during their final courtship dance, which is usually a few days after the courtship ritual begins, and during a full moon. The ritual lasts for around eight hours. The seahorses spin around, swim side-by-side and even change colors during this pre-mating ritual, according to Seahorse Facts. The seahorse courtship dance finally culminates with the male and female seahorse synchronizing their body movements in preparation for the next phase of the reproductive process of the seahorse.
Father seahorse carries the eggs
Once their body movements are synchronized, the female deposits her eggs into the brooding pouch of the abdomen of the male seahorse. The National Geographic article, “Seahorse Fathers Take Reins in Childbirth,” explains that the father seahorse then carries the eggs in his pouch until they hatch.
The female may deposit as many as fifteen hundred eggs at a time in the pouch of the male seahorse. The female briefly meets up with the male seahorse every day thereafter, as if to check on the eggs. After several minutes, she leaves and then returns again the following day. This process continues throughout the “pregnancy” of the male, which lasts for several weeks.
Male seahorses become aggressive
While carrying the eggs, the father seahorse becomes aggressive to protect the eggs so they can continue to develop until time for the eggs to hatch. As the time nears for the eggs to hatch, the male “puffs up,” according to Seahorse Worlds. It is believed that the puffing up very large as the time of the eggs hatching nears is an effort to deter predators.
The young seahorses are born
The process of the seahorse eggs hatching may take several hours to a day or more. As the eggs hatch, the newborn seahorses are released into the water and their fight for survival from currents and predators begins almost immediately. When the eggs hatch and the newborns are released, the seahorse parents have no further relationship with their young. So the newborn seahorses are left to fend for themselves from birth.
Less than one percent of seahorses live into adulthood to mate themselves. With over thirty-five species of seahorses, those who do reach full maturity have a life-span of four to six years. By the time seahorses are born, the female may be ready to deposit another batch of eggs soon after the hatching of the previous eggs. So it is not breeding issues that have contributed to certain species being protected, but the fact that there are issues in survival of seahorses into adulthood.
Other seahorse facts are important to understanding the reproductive process
The seahorse has been thought of as being monogamous creatures. However, occasionally the male will keep a female mate for only one season and will then choose another female partner.
Any upset to the natural environment of the seahorse may affect the reproductive process or behavior of the seahorse.The reproductive process is just one aspect of the seahorse that makes it one of the most intriguing creatures in the oceans.