A rare video of a seahorse giving birth in the wild was filmed by two University of British Columbia researchers in the waters off New South Wales in Australia.
The expectant father can be seen clinging to seagrass before tiny creatures, looking like pieces of string, emerge from deep within a pouch on his abdomen.
Within seconds, they are swept away.
Unlike most other animals, female seahorses deposit eggs into a pouch on the male’s adbomen. The males then fertilize, carry and nourish the developing embryos in a form of pregnancy. White’s seahorses carry the babies for three weeks before they are released from the pouch fully formed; about 100 to 250 babies are born at a time.
“We were doing a survey and found a very, very pregnant male that had a tiny tail sticking out of his brood pouch,” said Clayton Manning, a master’s student with Project Seahorse, a marine conservation group based at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and Zoological Society of London. “I had just finished getting his measurements and a baby shot out of the opening. So we sat back and watched the father for a while.”
The species living in these waters is known as the White’s or Sydney seahorse or by its Latin name Hippocampus whitei.
While videos of seahorses giving birth are not uncommon, most videos are filmed in aquariums.
“This is their time to breed,” said Meagan Abele, a Project Seahorse research assistant. “Many of the males we’re finding are super pregnant and ready to burst. It’s surreal to watch it happen.”
Worldwide seahorse populations face pressures from fishing, particularly bottom trawling, and habitat degradation. While seahorse numbers have declined precipitously in many parts of the world, but Australian populations are generally doing well.
Watch the full video below: