Although it sounds different, seahorses indeed eat their babies. Additionally, this is largely done by male seahorses. However, a few schools of thought lead to this inference. What is known about seahorses reveals that they are not like what we assume.
Let’s clear the clouds over all these questions regarding why adult seahorses consume their babies and get an insight into the world of these magical creatures.
Seahorses do eat their young. When compared to moms, father seahorses are more prone to consume their young.
However, the male seahorse does not consume his young soon after birth. He waits around for a while and looks for other marine meals. Still, if the infants are lingering nearby and the father can’t manage his food, the babies might become his only food source.
[Note: When it comes to seahorses, the female transfers her eggs in the male seahorse’s pouch. And the male provides the fertilization that leads to the female giving birth.]
Moreover, parent seahorses give up on their parental responsibility immediately after they hatch their eggs. Funnily enough, they do not spend a quarter of the energy on their kids that they spend on mating. So, when eating their babies, they do not have such deep feelings for them.
The number of fries (babies from fertilized eggs) given birth by male seahorses is usually in the hundreds. The bare minimum they release is 300. Then why is their population so low? Why do so few of their babies survive till they are adults?
Well, you have probably improvised the answer by now. Both male and female seahorses eat up a lot of their babies. And this phenomenon of eating their fries is the main reason for such a low rate of survival and a small population.
Male seahorses mostly consume their babies when they don’t get enough food after giving birth. And female seahorses lose almost fifty percent of their weight when they lay their eggs. In this situation, they need more protein. So, she also eats the babies.
Moreover, male and female seahorses regularly go through mating. They do not wait for long after one cycle of mating is completed. To prepare for the process, they look to eat and regain their optimum condition.
Video: Watch a Seahorse Give Birth to 2,000 Babies | National Geographic
They start looking for food around them. In continuation of their food search, they come across a lot of baby seahorses. Not being able to withstand the hunger urges them to go and consume those fries.
So, who is the culprit here? A closer look reveals that both male and female seahorses consume their young. Both parties are responsible for this situation.
However, the food shortage in the ocean’s depths is the main contributing cause. Why is there such a dearth? The reason is that human destruction has an international influence.
Humans highly affect the lives of seahorses. Like a human child, every animal needs a proper environment to grow. But humans play a destructive role in robbing the lives of other animals.
Many seahorse populations are collapsing because of human activities such as overfishing, habitat degradation, bycatch, and plastic contamination of the ocean.
Additionally, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has long relied on seahorses, with claims that they may heal everything from asthma to erectile dysfunction.
Moreover, human activities will reduce the production of fish larvae, copepods, krill, and other natural food sources. That leads the adult seahorses to eat their babies.
Seahorses call for a high-fat diet to stay fit for breeding. Although they intake fries to meet their hunger and regain energy, it does not fulfil their pre-requisite of high-fat consumption.
Therefore, they slowly move towards the inability to mate and give birth later on. Moreover, such behaviour threatens the future generation of seahorses if they eat their babies.
How do seahorses affect the ecosystem?
While seahorses play a crucial role in the food web as predators of bottom-dwelling species, they are also a prime target for a wide variety of predatory fish, sea turtles, birds, and mammals. As a result, their removal causes widespread ecological disruption.
Do seahorses lay eggs?
Yes, up to two thousand eggs are laid in the abdomen of the male seahorse’s pouch by the female. Compared to human mothers, seahorse fathers carry their young in a pouch.
Male seahorses’ pouch controls environmental factors like heat, blood circulation, and salt concentration for the growing eggs. Between two and four weeks, the eggs develop there.
Why do so few seahorse babies survive?
While male seahorses put forth greater effort during childbirth, they show little further parental concern for their new-borns. Baby seahorses are vulnerable to being eaten by predators and carried away from nutrient-rich feeding areas by ocean currents.
Additionally, baby seahorses are also eaten by their parents. These are the main reasons why so few seahorse babies survive.
How long is a seahorse pregnant?
After a mating dance, the female will deposit eggs into the male’s pouch, and the pregnancy will endure for around 30 days.
The male provides the developing embryos with the necessary nourishment before giving birth to up to a thousand young from the contents of his pouch.
Seahorses exist in a lot of species in the oceans. But almost ninety percent of them are not found out. The information available is too little to take a call on their nature or habits. And they are also nowhere near to getting extinct due to eating their babies.
It is mostly due to human intervention that seahorses devour their young. Every day, our actions reduce the number of viable marine resources that could provide these creatures with food. Therefore, protecting the planet should be everyone’s first priority.