What do you know about seahorses? These marine species are loved around the world by many cultures. Part of the reason seahorses are so popular, is due to their unique adaptations and behaviors. Unlike many species, seahorses are one of the few that are monogamous and will mate for life. As if that’s not unique enough, they are possibly the only animal species known to man in which the male bears the unborn young.
Seahorses have one of the most distinctive and beautiful courtship dances in the animal kingdom. This species will engage in an eight hour courtship dance which includes swimming side by side, spinning around in perfect unison, and changing colors rapidly. The male and female will spend hours courting as the two swim tail in tail in a graceful fashion. Scientists believe these displays help to synchronize their movements with one another while strengthening their bond. In the last moments of their courtship, the pair releases their tails from the sea grass and float towards the surface. At this moment, the female seahorse will deposit her eggs into the male and the courtship will be complete.
After a successful courtship, the “love story” of our seahorse pair is not over. Throughout the gestation of the male’s pregnancy, the female returns to her mate every morning and the two will dance together in a “morning greeting.” This greeting will last for a few minutes, the pair will dance side by side and spin together, reaffirming the strength of their bond. The male’s gestation period can last between 2 to 5 weeks and may result in approximately 5 to 1000 babies depending on the species. Following the next new moon cycle, the pair’s courtship will begin once more as they continue their dance beneath the waves.
In the wake of human development and lack of education, seahorses face many new threats to their survival. The greatest threats faced by all seahorse species include pollution, habitat loss, and overfishing. All of which can be combated through direct efforts such as spreading awareness, joining coastal cleanup opportunities and promoting positive interactions with wildlife. In honor of Valentine’s Day, remember the story of the seahorse and do your part to protect them. If you would like to join a cause that directly supports seahorse conservation, visit the IUCN website.