The natural world is a weird and wonderful place, with animals going about their business for millennia without worrying about the watchful eyes of human beings. Still, this doesn’t mean that we aren’t watching or that, when we see it unfold, it’s not utterly amazing.
Take the humble seahorse. A silly-looking creature that populates the shallows of the ocean and coral reefs across the globe. Seahorses come in amazing colors and varieties, but even the flashiest of these creatures don’t really look like much.
Still, these noble steeds of the sea have a long history on planet Earth. The fossil record shows that the earliest ancestor of the modern seahorse lived about 13 million years ago. Experts believe that their odd, upright posture was born from having evolved in shallow pools where tall vertical sea grass flourished.
Today, only two modern types of animals share that ancient ancestor. Our seahorse and the pipefish are the only two groups of animals where the male of species carries their offspring, called “fry.”
The reproductive process works in seahorses just like it does for every other animal. While the male carries their brood, the female of the species still lay eggs that have to be fertilized by her mate.
Yet, once that happens, the female then deposits these eggs in a large pouch males evolved to carry the eggs for the number of days it takes for them to hatch, anywhere from nine to 45 days. While they wait, the males’ belly swells to what appears to be painful proportions.
Once the blessed day arrives, the male seahorse puts on quite a scene as he “gives birth” to their young, and one such birth was recently captured by The Deep Hull in Yorkshire, United Kingdom.
Just like humans, the male experiences muscular contractions which work to expel the fry from it’s makeshift womb. The number of fry vary depending on the specific species, but the seahorse below is now the proud papa of about 2,000 babies.
Like most fish, seahorses don’t nurture their young after birth. These tiny, perfectly-formed seahorses are left to fend for themselves in their parents’ habitat. The sheer number of fry is an evolutionary trick to help ensure that some survive the predators that lurk in the open ocean.
However, for these seahorses, they don’t have to worry about predators or finding food or illness. The experts at The Deep Hull take care of them. Many species of seahorses are protected, but still illegally captured and sold. The Deep Hull cares for these creatures when they are seized by authorities. While adding some 2,000 fish to their roster may seem like a lot, they are up to the job.
Watch the amazing birthing video below: