Much like female humans do for their babies, seahorses are excellent dads when it comes to nurturing their embryos by providing them with the right compounds to see their offspring to life. The highly complex process has been discovered to be aided not just by moms, but by male seahorses as well, in a way that is comparable to humans.
As part of the Syngnathidae family, seahorses are famously known for going through the uncommon process of male pregnancy, where the responsibility of gestation, nutrition and delivering their offspring is off the female’s shoulders.
Instead, the father diligently carries the eggs, and scientists have uncovered that they’re doing a better job than expected.
The reproduction process of seahorses is interesting in itself, as it takes a dance-like ritual between the two partners, after which they apparently decide if they’re satisfied with the other’s ability to ‘bust a move’. The female would then lay approximately 1,500 eggs into the male’s pouch, and then it becomes his responsibility.
The female would regularly check on the future dad between the 9 to 45 days until their offspring fully develop and are ready to be released into the world. It has been previously observed that embryos depend on the mother’s egg yolk for nutrients through the gestation period, but a study has shown that fathers have evolved to provide even better chances of birthing healthy offspring.
The male seahorse offers his future children additional nutrients and a drastically needed immunological protection, as their young are often very vulnerable following birth. In fact, between 100 and 1,000 tiny seahorses survive the gestation period, among which a saddening less than 0.5% make it to adult life.
Like most other types of fish species, seahorses neglect and abandon their children after birth, but at the very least, they provide the ample nutrition while they’re still embryos. Through its pouch, the father provides much needed energy-rich lipids, along with calcium that would help his future offspring in developing a strong skeleton beneath the fragile exterior.
They do so by secreting the needed nutrients into the brood pouch, which then is further absorbed by the embryos, along with ensuring a healthy gas exchange and elimination of waste.
According to Dr. Camilla Whittington from the University of Sydney’s School of Biological Sciences, male seahorses provide similar nutrition to female humans, by nurturing their embryos into resulting as healthy offspring.
However, that may not still be enough to guarantee them a long life. Habitat loss and their natural vulnerability do not place the odds in their favor.