No, a seahorse doesn’t change gender. The egg is produced by the female and fertilized by the male. It’s the male’s job to carry the embryo through pregnancy following fertilization. That’s a case of exchanging responsibilities rather than a literal transformation of gender. The spouses haven’t abandoned their gender identities.
So, are you interested to know more about seahorse reproduction and gender? If they change genders, then why do they change it and how? This post is a way of documenting a moment in my seahorse education journey and justifying why or why not seahorses change gender.
Can A Seahorse Change Genders?
Seahorses change their responsibilities instead of changing gender. These are just myths that they do. I’m still not entirely convinced but having had a little light shed on the subject, I might just be persuaded.
Seahorses are unique in the way they carry their embryos. To be precise, they carry two sets of embryos, one in each pair of testes. Each of the embryos shares a body and its organs, but this is just for ease of keeping track of them.
When a male seahorse dies, it gives the female a chance to have another partner from the same batch. The embryos in this batch get to develop separately, one inside the other, before they are reunited in the female’s brood pouch.
Also Read: 20+ Fish That Change Gender [Amazing Facts]
In seahorses, this egg-to-pouch process is called “social abortion”. So, how do the different sexes carry their embryos? Why do male and female seahorses change their duties? Let’s discuss it in detail below.
Why Do Seahorses Change Gender? How?
As our answer is clear like a crystal that seahorses do not change genders. They changed their responsibilities.
Then, the query must be more precise, like “How come male seahorses are the ones that transport the female’s fertilized eggs?” Or “Why do male seahorses have to be the ones to transport the fertilized eggs?”
Let’s answer it in detail and all these doubts will hopefully get settled. But first, we need to discuss their reproduction process, which will help us understand everything easily.
The Seahorse Reproductive Cycle
Let’s deep dive into the sea of insights about the interesting facts about seahorses’ reproductive cycle:
- The majority of seahorse species are monogamous, at least throughout mating season. When a male and a female seahorse start dating, they tend to remain a couple forever. Usually, there is a long period of wooing preceding the first copulation.
- Up to three days may pass during which courting behavior is displayed. They’ll be dancing next to one another at this moment. Additionally, they will undergo a metamorphosis in which their body color shifts.
- Once they have sexual relations, the male fertilizes the eggs while still within the female. However, once fertilized, the female will place the egg in a pouch on the male’s body.
- After the female has laid her eggs within the male, the male will send her away. Even yet, the Female will keep paying the Male morning visits until the eggs have hatched. The goal is to strengthen the connection between them.
- The male seahorse carries fertilized eggs until they develop into fingerlings in his pouch during gestation. It could take up to 45 days for this to be completed.
- When the eggs hatch, the male will throw them away and be ready to mate immediately. Seahorses have lifetime reproductive potential.
To what end do female seahorses have their male partners bear the burden of carrying the egg?
Explanation Of Why Male Seahorses Are Trusted with Fertilized Eggs?
The fundamental objective of the male seahorses responsible for carrying the fertilized egg is to speed up the reproduction process. The percentage of fish that die off each year is typically rather high.
Because of this, fishes typically have a large number of eggs. However, the situation is considerably direr for seahorses. The mortality rate of seahorses is among the highest of all fish species.
Once the eggs have hatched, the seahorse fingerlings are on their own to find food and protect themselves from predators. A female seahorse can lay up to 1500 eggs in the pouch of a male.
The vast majority will one day be consumed as food by various other marine species. There were a total of 1500 eggs laid, but only 10 may mature into adults and have their own offspring.
The fish does not possess any defense mechanisms to protect itself from enemies. It is also one fish with the slowest swimming speed overall.
Camouflaging itself is the only defense mechanism that it possesses. It can alter its color to correspond with the color of the environment around it. It can also blend seamlessly with its surroundings, allowing it to trick its adversaries.
However, many kinds of seahorses are at risk of extinction, and the only way to keep their species from going extinct is to have as many offspring as possible.
To ensure this, both the male and the female have adapted to sharing the responsibility of reproduction. As soon as the female gives the eggs to the male, the female can begin making further eggs even though the male is the one who will be responsible for carrying the eggs.
Because of this, there is never a break in the reproductive cycle. As soon as one batch of eggs has been successfully hatched, the female can be prepared to lay another batch of eggs.
But does this arrangement coincide with conventional sexual behavior? No, but it is more than fascinating and interesting to know about this sea creature and its gender.
What Experts Say About This Gender-Changing Responsibility
Many specialists have researched seahorse behavior to see if it challenges the notion that the less productive gender is more aggressive.
When it comes to reproduction, females of most species of creatures normally donate more energy, although males are typically the more aggressive of the sexes.
Although the male seahorses are the more aggressive of the two sexes, do they contribute less to the reproduction process?
The sperm of the males will fertilize the eggs, and the males will also carry and guard the eggs. Because of this, they appear to be expanding a greater proportion of energy.
Despite this, it was discussed that female seahorses continue to contribute more to fertilization than male seahorses.
Producing eggs takes a significant amount of energy than transporting them. There is no inconsistency between the behavior of seahorses and the reproductive behavior theory.
Are Seahorses Hermaphrodites?
No, seahorses are not hermaphrodites at all. Male seahorses are only males and female seahorses are only females. The eggs are laid by the female, while the male is the one who carries them and takes care of them. The male seahorse never leaves the female’s side.
Conventionally, the male has an exclusive relationship with the female. The male seahorses must stay together to protect their eggs and their young and support the female.
Seahorses are classified as placental mammals that reproduce through fertilization, so it is obvious that the male must remain with the female. Thus, the male seahorse has to sacrifice part of his life and energy, and in return, he will get to mate with the female.
Some biologists have been concerned about the possibility that the male seahorse could die or become disoriented if left alone in the sea and unable to find the female seahorse.
Since the male has to remain with the female for as long as it takes for the eggs to develop and she is to lay more eggs, the male is vulnerable to other animals that might find him attractive.
There is a certain probability of that occurring, but no one knows whether it has ever happened. However, the behavior of the seahorses does not change depending on the situation.
As long as the male remains with the female, there is no ambiguity regarding the cause and purpose of the male’s role in the reproductive process.
Biological Facts About “Seahorses Are Not Hermaphrodites”
First, some biology, then we’ll get to the related query. The mating and reproductive process of seahorses is fascinating.
The males in this species have adapted to most of the parental care work. (Men do most of the caretaking and childrearing in many species.)
This happens when male seahorses, pipefish, and sea dragons hide the eggs in their kangaroo-like pouches, fertilize them there, and then keep them hidden until they hatch.
This might work to grow the population by rewarding those who take care of their eggs so they can have more children. It clearly shows seahorses are not hermaphrodites and that males play an essential role in raising the young.
In seahorses, sea dragons, and pipefish, the females produce eggs more quickly than the males can store in their pouches.
As a result, the females are constantly searching for males who are “empty” in their pouches so that they can produce more eggs. Because in contrast to the majority of animal species, females must compete with one another for male attention, which causes the sexual selection to work in the opposite direction.
In contrast to the majority of other species, in which males compete to fertilize females, this situation is exactly the opposite.
Because of this, if there is sexual dimorphism in seahorses, the females have more secondary sexual features and are more lavishly decorated than the males.
It is important to remember that males, even though they are capable of caring for fertilized eggs and are, in a sense, pregnant, continue to be males because they generate sperm rather than eggs.
You could say that “males get pregnant,” but this is not the same thing as transsexual men who can sometimes get pregnant.
Furthermore, the pregnancy of a seahorse does not in any way demonstrate that the pregnancy of a transmale is “okay” or “moral.” It is not acceptable just because it is found in some marine life, even though this is not the case.
There is no sense of morality among the fishes (indeed, seahorses, sea dragons, and pipefish are all considered to be “fish”). Pregnant seahorses are neither hermaphrodites nor transsexuals; they are males only.
Are All Seahorses Male?
No, all seahorses are not males at all. Some are males and some are females. The distinction between male and female seahorses is simply a result of sexual dimorphism, not a conscious choice.
In many fish species, female and male seahorses appear almost identical, indistinguishable at a glance.
However, the gender difference can be observed with a trained eye: the larger seahorse is, by default, the male. So, what’s the point of all the “debate”?
These animals are not homosexual, hermaphrodite, or transgender; they are distinct species with some members having varying male and female characteristics, especially the kangaroo-like pouch for taking care of their eggs.
What animals are hermaphrodites?
Hermaphrodite animals possess both male and female reproductive organs within their bodies. They are both male and female at the same time.
Hermaphrodites can switch between male and female roles in either a sequential or simultaneous fashion, and the type of sexual system they encounter significantly impacts how they reproduce.
Hermaphrodites can take several forms, including earthworms, snails, hamlet fists, clownfish, and others.
Are Frogs Hermaphrodites?
Frogs are not hermaphrodites. Furthermore, it is dependent on species to species. Some frogs are hermaphrodites, while the majority of frogs are not. Thus, we can say that hermaphrodites are an exceptional case in frogs.
The debate over the appropriateness of gender in animals and humans is ongoing. However, after discussing the biology of hermaphrodites and seahorses’ reproductive cycle, the conclusion is obvious: seahorses do not change genders and they are not hermaphrodites.
They are either male or female and remain so during their entire lifetime, at least until they die. I hope this answer to your questions is helpful. Happy seahorse info hunting!