Video captures male seahorse giving birth in the wild

Two researchers from the University of British Columbia captured rare video of a male seahorse gave birth to baby seahorses in the waters off Australia.

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The researchers were in the waters off New South Wales last month, when they caught the moment on video.

In the video, several tiny seahorses are seen wriggling out of a pouch in the abdomen of a male seahorse. Once released into the water, they can be seen swimming away.

Researchers Clayton Manning and Meagan Abele captured the births while working on a conservation project called "Project Seahorse." The project requires them to dive and search for seahorses living in the protected waterways in Port Stephens, Australia, to learn about the habitats that best support seahorse populations.

Manning, a UBC masters student with the project, said the two were lucky to witness the event. While seahorse reproduction is well documented, most videos are from seahorses living in aquariums. The species of seahorses in waters near Port Stephens are known as the White's, or Sydney seahorse.

"We were doing a survey and found a very, very pregnant male that had a tiny tail sticking out of his brood pouch," he said in a statement. "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."

Unlike other animals, female seahorses deposit eggs into a pouch on the male's abdomen. The male seahorses then fertilize, carry and nourish the developing embryos. White's seahorses carry the babies for three weeks before they are released from the pouch, UBC said in a statement.

"About 100 to 250 babies are born at a time," the statement said.

Abele, a research assistant with the project, said the video was shot at a time when the seahorses are known to breed.

"Many of the males we're finding are super pregnant and ready to burst," she said in the statement. "It's surreal to watch it happen."

Seahorse populations around the world face pressures from fishing and habitat degradation. While it is known that seahorses live in the shallow areas of oceans, not a lot is known about the specific habitat characteristics that affect their numbers, the university said.

However, Australian seahorse populations are "generally doing well," UBC said, and the researchers hope to understand how the seagrass, sponge and soft coral habitats found in the waters of Port Stephens help support the seahorse population.



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