Rare seahorse birth footage
TWO RESEARCHERS WORKING in Nelson Bay, on the New South Wales central coast, have captured the first ever recording of a seahorse giving birth in the wild.
Clayton Manning and his research assistant Meagan Abele, from The University of British Columbia, Canada, were only four dives into their study when they were lucky enough to witness the rare event.
Although videos of seahorses giving birth are nothing new, all have been filmed in captivity until now. “This is the first time it has been captured in the wild,” said Clayton. “It’s pretty cool to be a part of something so rare, so when Meagan and I stopped filming, we high-fived and went to the surface. We were positively beaming”.
Seahorses are unique in that the males are responsible for carrying the pregnancy and giving birth. After a ritualised courtship dance, the female deposits her eggs into the male’s pouch, where they are fertilised and develop into fully formed miniature seahorses before being ejected out of the pouch.
The species in the video, the Whites or Sydney seahorse (Hippocampus whitei) breeds between October and March, and males give birth multiple times during the breeding season. “The pregnancy lasts around three weeks, and can result in approximately 100-250 offspring,” said Clayton, who is investigating what type of environmental characteristics makes for good seahorse habitat.
According to Clayton, while Australian populations of seahorses are doing well, populations globally are not. Habitat loss, indirect catch (usually by shrimp trawlers), and direct catch for traditional medicine (largely in Asia) are their biggest threats.