My handsome seahorse
Let’s face it, we can never see too many stories about male animals that gestate their young and give birth. — Catherine de Lange
The handsome fellow pictured above is a short-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus). In addition to his good looks, this guy will carry and birth hundreds of babies on the behalf of his mate.
Unfortunately, our handsome seahorse is endangered due to pollution, fishing, and use in eastern medicine. The number of adults is dwindling, as are the number of surviving babies that once maintained the population. H. hippocampus reproductive success is relatively low — of the 1000 young released by male seahorses, less than 0.06% survive. Like almost all other fish species, seahorses don’t care for their young after birth. Instead, infants are susceptible to predators or ocean currents which wash them away from feeding grounds or into temperatures too extreme for their delicate bodies. Given the new threats the animals face, this reproductive strategy has left the short-snouted seahorse at a disadvantage.
One approach to bolster the numbers of endangered animals is captive breeding with subsequent release into the wild. Scientists are doing just that for H. hippocampus, with some amount of success: a record-breaking 918 baby short-snouted sea horses were born at London Zoo’s Aquarium in 2010. You can watch a video about the seahorses and the captive rearing program at New Scientist. Next step for science: successful release of the wee-horses.