Seahorses: The Super Dads of the Sea

Ashley Breault | Marketing Intern | Ocean Studies and Communications Student at University of New England

Father’s Day is a great time to thank all the dads out there who step up their game for life’s most important job! Inarguably, the most notable dad in the animal kingdom, the seahorse, has some pretty unique traits that qualify them for the #1 dad in-the-sea award!

There are more than 50 different seahorse species, Hippocampus sp., around the world. All of which do something that gives them the title of best dad: they are one of the only species in which the male carries and delivers its babies.

seahorse dad 1

Seahorses are monogamous, meaning they only have one mate during the reproductive seasons. After hours of a courtship ‘dance’ that includes synchronized tail movements and twirling, a male and female seahorse will mate. The female seahorse makes the eggs, and during this mating process, transfers the unfertilized eggs to the male seahorse. The male seahorse fertilized the eggs and is now a proud father, carrying anywhere from 5-2,000 babies in his pouch, depending on the species.

seahorse dad 2

In here, these offspring will get all the food and oxygen they need to develop. Anywhere from 14 days to 4 weeks later, all these little seahorses will be born.

Baby seahorses are called fry and once they are born, they are completely independent. Mom and dad leave them to find food and shelter all on their own. Unfortunately, only a few of the thousands born will make it to adulthood. But once they do, they find a mate and they will have seahorse babies of their own.

Here at the Seacoast Science Center, you can find seahorses in our Eelgrass exhibit tank. The seahorses at the Center are called White’s seahorses, Hippocampus whitei, and are actually native to Australia where they are a very common along the coast. These seahorses are typically very small, growing no longer than 20 cm. Our seahorses are fed mysid shrimp 4 times a day and get all the love and care they need. Because they are so small, they can only eat small amounts of food at a time, which is why they get fed so often.

One seahorse species that you might be able to find in our local waters are Lined seahorses, Hippocampus erectus, which can live as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Venezuela.

To learn more about these hardworking seahorse dads, be sure to stop by the Center check them out and watch the feature video at our Eelgrass exhibit tank.

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