Seahorse Role Reversal

Seahorse Role Reversal

In most animal species, the female is the one who gives birth and cares for the young, but that is not always the case. One exception to that rule is the seahorse role reversal.

Females seahorses compete to secure a mate. The female is the leader in the courtship ritual, which involves an extended “dance.” After the ritual, the female will deposit her eggs in a pouch on the front of the male. The male fertilizes the eggs and keeps the embryo sea horses for as long as ten weeks.

At the end of that time, the male ejects the young with muscle contractions, pushing them out into the ocean to fend for themselves. There can be dozens or hundreds of tiny seahorses, depending on how big the male is. Sea horses live in dense seaweed, which supplies food and hides them from predators. Small fish such as seahorses are easy prey for many animals in the sea, so they need to reproduce in large numbers.

Besides the seahorse role reversal, there are other cases in the natural world where a male is the caregiver for offspring. Diversity is the answer to many needs of a balanced life system, and the male and female roles can be different depending on the needs of the ecosystem.

The more we learn of the natural world, the more examples we see of incredible design and planning which reflect God’s actions in preparing this planet for human life. We all have a role in protecting the diversity of living things God has placed in our care.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

National Wildlife magazine for December-January 2021 has pictures of seahorse birthing.