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WHAT IS THE SEA HORSE?


Seahorses are classified in the same family as pipefishes, sea dragons and pipe horses, the only family of vertebrates known in which the males - not the females - become pregnant. And if that isnít odd enough, almost all species of seahorses are strictly monogamous, with a courtship and mating ritual that could be described as tender or even loving.



A seahorse couple mates repeatedly and exclusively within and between the reproductive seasons. Throughout their life together, the pair reinforce their bond with elaborate greeting dances performed daily soon after dawn. The female swims to the male and both change color, promenading and pirouetting for several minutes. They then separate for the rest of the day. When her eggs have developed, the female lays them at the entry of special brood pouches found on the maleís belly.














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The pouch seals shut and the pregnant male then fertilizes the eggs. He keeps them in his pouch until theyíve reached a relatively advanced stage of development. When the male is ready to give birth, contractions and jack-knife contortions eject the live young from the safety of their fatherís pouch. The fry are miniature replicas of their parents, ranging in size from only 7 to 11 millimeters in length, but yet are fully independent from the moment of birth. The morning after the male gives birth, the usual female greeting is intensified, becoming a full courtship that can last up to nine hours in which the couple mates again. Throughout their partnership, the couple ignore all other seahorses. Should their mate disappear, they are slow to seek a new partner.

 

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