The Life Cycle of a Seahorse? The seahorse is a small fish that has no scales and breathes through gills. Seahorses are the only type of fish in which the male becomes pregnant (by way of internal fertilization). While we don’t know for sure how they do this, it’s believed to be possible due to their ability to regrow their tails. This makes them one of the most unique fish in our world!
Seahorses are commonly known for their unique appearance and slow swimming. They don’t move around in the ocean nearly as fast as other sea creatures. However, that isn’t the most interesting thing about them. Did you know that when seahorses are born, they’re all males?
Life Cycle of a Seahorse
While they start as males, some turn into females when the female population becomes smaller. It’s a strange and unusual thing that doesn’t happen with other creatures, but that’s what makes the average seahorse special! It’s essential to understand the life cycle of a seahorse and what they go through to reproduce.
The Courting Process
Before mating, the courting process begins between the seahorses. The courting ritual can last for multiple days. During that time, seahorses will spend time dancing around and changing their colors to attract a mate. It’s common for numerous male seahorses to try competing against one another for a single female seahorse.
The male seahorses commonly make their pouches appear longer to entice female seahorses to choose them for mating. In some instances, multiple female seahorses may compete for attention from the males, especially if there aren’t many males in a specific area.
Transferring the Eggs to the Male
After choosing a mate, the female seahorse drops eggs into the water while the male releases the sperm. The sperm released by the male seahorse fertilizes the eggs that are then placed in the male’s pouch. It’s the reason male seahorses carry the eggs and complete the pregnancy.
Some seahorses will have more eggs in their pouch than others. It all depends on different factors, including the number of eggs initially released by the female seahorse during the mating experience.
The Pregnancy of the Seahorse
Once the male and female have mated by releasing their sperm and eggs, the male carries the pregnancy. It’s another thing that makes the seahorse unique because it’s typically the female who goes through the pregnancy in all other living, breathing creatures.
The male carries the eggs in its pouch and provides them with the oxygen needed for survival. The eggs turn into embryos that will stay in the pouch for a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of six weeks.
Birthing the Fry
Much like human women who will often experience contractions when in labor, the male seahorse experiences contractions before expelling the fry. The young seahorses are known as fry until they get older. Because there are different seahorse species, some may end up with more fry than others. It’s not uncommon to see a seahorse give birth to 200 fry!
However, in some cases, the seahorse may only give birth to a minimum of five fry at once. It’s not easy to see the young because they’re tiny when they first come out of the male seahorse.
After giving birth, the male seahorse will take care of its young. It’s common for these creatures to stay close to one another, especially when the fry has yet to reach maturity. Once these babies reach adulthood, they may continue to stick around or go off on their own. It’s relatively uncommon for a seahorse to stray away from the area where it’s living under the water.
Growing Into Adulthood
The following life cycle process involves the fry growing into juveniles and then adulthood, much like humans do. It takes several months for the average seahorse to reach maturity. Some reach maturity at five months old, while it can take several additional months for others.
Maturity occurs when the seahorse increases in size and has its pouch available for mating. Once that happens, the seahorse is considered an adult and can mate with the female seahorses to continue reproducing.
Continuing the Cycle
The cycle continues to repeat itself as the seahorse reaches adulthood and begins reproducing with the adult female seahorses. The male seahorses will go through the same situation, carrying the eggs in their pouch after mating, going through the pregnancy for several weeks, and then dealing with contractions for several hours before giving birth to the fry. It’s a life cycle that continues over and over again throughout the years.
How Long Will a Seahorse Live in the Wild?
Unfortunately, seahorses don’t have long lifespans like other sea creatures, such as the giant sea turtle that can live for more than 100 years. It’s common for seahorses to live for a minimum of one year and a maximum of five years, in most cases.
Smaller seahorses have a greater chance of dying at an earlier age. On the other hand, when a seahorse is large, it has a much better shot at surviving for more extended periods.
Will Seahorses Live Longer When in Captivity?
There is no scientific reason to believe that seahorses will live longer lives when held in captivity. Even when provided with a comfortable and spacious area to live that closely resembles the ocean, it’s uncommon for the average seahorse to live longer than five years.
What Do These Sea Creatures Eat?
Despite their small size, seahorses eat up to 50 times per day! Can you imagine eating that often? It’s normal for the average seahorse to consume crustacea, such as ghost shrimp, red shrimp, and Mysis shrimp. If they cannot find any crustacea, they’ll eat seaweed and algae to stay alive and keep themselves from going hungry.
Understanding the Life Cycle of a Seahorse
While the average seahorse won’t live an incredibly long life like some people and other creatures, including turtles and whales, they’re amazing creatures with a unique life cycle. Instead of having the female carry the embryos, it’s the male that handles the pregnancy and gives birth to the fry.
Although the male does a lot of the work, carrying the embryos wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the female seahorses releasing their eggs into the water for fertilization. While the seahorse should live in their natural habitat with access to food when they want it, it’s not uncommon to see these creatures in fish tanks at aquariums throughout the country.
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