Old Biophilia

Happy Father’s Day
June 21, 2010, 5:34 am
Filed under: Diversity in the animal world

Happy Dad’s Day to all the father’s out there who invest more than just their genetic material in their offspring! Like, for instance, nature’s Mr. Mom: the male seahorse.

It’s actually quite common for male fish to play the dominant parenting role, but fish in the family Syngnathidae (which includes pipefish, seahorses and sea dragons) take fathering to a whole new level: Pregnancy! When seahorses mate, the female deposits her unfertilized eggs into the male’s brood pouch (an external structure that grows on the body of the male), after which the male then releases sperm into the pouch to fertilize the eggs.

But he’s not just passively carrying around embryos; the male closely controls the prenatal environment of the embryos in his pouch by keeping blood flowing around the embryos, controlling the salt concentrations in the pouch, and providing oxygen and nutrition to the developing offspring. He does all this until they hatch, then releases fully formed, miniature seahorses into the water. What a good dad!

For other examples of good fathers in the Animal Kingdom, check out the National Geographic Slide Show.

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