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Rare Footage of a Papa Seahorse Giving Birth!

The Tennessee Aquarium's seahorse gallery is a busy nursery but actual footage of seahorses being born is still rare. Lucky for us Carol Haley, the Aquarium's Assistant Curator of Fishes, caught this amazing video of Lined Seahorses being shot-outta-Pop (that is not the technical term). Many people are surprised to learn that it's the father, not the mother, seahorse that gives live birth to the young.  In the video, you’ll notice the babies racing away from dad towards the surface. There’s a reason for that according to aquarist Elaine Robinson. “When they are born, Hippocampus erectus fry swim quickly to the surface of the water to gulp air for the primary phase of swim bladder inflation,” said Robinson.  “Lined seahorses tend to be pelagic, drifting near the surface of the water, in search of their prey.” 

In the pictures below, a toothbrush has been inserted for size reference Baby seahorses at Tennessee Aquarium 3

Baby seahorses at Tennessee Aquarium 3Photo credits: Thom Benson / Tennessee Aquarium

Aquarists quickly remove the babies to care for them in backup areas until they are strong enough to be placed on exhibit or shared with other AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accredited institutions.

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In the wild, breeding season for this species usually lasts from March until October, but the Tennessee Aquarium usually has H. erectus being born throughout the year. “They are capable of brood sizes of several hundred,” said Robinson. “But we usually only see numbers between 50 and 100 at the Tennessee aquarium.  The number usually depends on the size, experience and health of the parents. Male seahorses are able to breed again within days of giving birth. We usually have H. erectus born about once every few weeks, but more often during the official breeding season.”

Baby seahorses at Tennessee Aquarium 1b

Once the juvenile seahorses reach maturity, the Tennessee Aquarium uses them to re-stock exhibits or donate them to other AZA accredited institutions. “Most recently, we donated some to The Nashville Zoo and The Memphis Zoo,” said Robinson. Learn more about Lined Seahorses here.

And finally, here is an outstanding video of a seahorse birth with a detailed explanation taken this summer at the ZSL London Zoo