From March 9 to May 6, the Vancouver Aquarium is celebrating all of its babies through a special feature: “Babies.” This is a great time to experience unique features of babies in the sea like you’ve never seen before, such as tadpoles growing legs and clownfish switching genders. One of the most fascinating baby stories is that of the noble seahorse.
If you’re a fan of romance and being swept off your feet, then you were meant to love seahorses, and you will enjoy this story of how seahorse babies come into being. These distinctive fish can be considered one of the most romantic animals in the ocean. Seahorse courtship is extensive and elaborate. While humans may spend hours picking out the perfect shirt to bring out their eyes on a date, the colour of seahorses literally brighten when they meet a potential mate. To further develop their relationship, seahorses hold tails instead of hands and take a leisurely swim together around the sea grass bed.
If the pair is getting along, these swims may lead to a slightly more energetic activity: dancing. Researchers believe that seahorse dances – which could last up to eight hours – play a very practical role in preparation for mating. This elaborate courtship provides time for seahorses to get to know each other, and is an important piece of the mating game as some scientists believe that certain seahorse species mate for life.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about seahorse reproduction is that it is the male that ultimately gives birth. After the last dance, the female deposits her eggs in to her mate’s brood pouch. There he fertilizes the eggs and cares for them as they develop over the next 10 to 25 days. One male seahorse may give birth to as many as 2,000 babies, though the number is usually closer to 200.
Currently, we have a number of babies of all shapes and sizes on display at the Aquarium – each with a story unlike any other. The common seahorse babies you can see today were born on March 3, 2011, thanks to the care of our talented team of aquarium biologists and the hard work of some very dedicated seahorse dads.
Be sure to visit all of the babies at the Vancouver Aquarium from March 9 to May 6. You can learn more about our “Babies” feature here.