Two researchers diving off the coast of Nelson Bay, just north of Sydney, Australia, have managed to film the first ever footage of a seahorse giving birth in the wild. After around three weeks of carrying its offspring in a brood pouch at the base of his abdomen, the male seahorse unloaded his babies right in front of Clayton Manning and Meagan Abele from the University of British Columbia in Canada, who were lucky to spot him camouflaging among the reeds. Underwater high-fives ensued.
"This is the first time it has been captured in the wild," Clayton told Derek Dunlop at Australian Geographic. "It's pretty cool to be a part of something so rare, so when Meagan and I stopped filming, we high-fived and went to the surface. We were positively beaming."
The seahorse has been identied as a Whites seahorse (Hippocampus whitei), which can be found fairly commonly in the waters of Sydney Harbour, sometimes clinging to swimming nets by their twisted tails, and along the south-eastern and south-western coasts of Australia. (Fun fact: the Latin word, "hippocampus", translates literally as "horse caterpillar".)
Whites seahorses have about six months of the year to breed - October to March - and the males will carry and birth multiple broods during this time.
Unfortunately, those adorable, perfectly formed babies are going to have a tough time of it from here on in. And when I say "tough" I mean the vast majority of them are very likely going to turn into fish snacks within hours, and perhaps even minutes, of voiding the safety of dad's pouch, the US Natonal Ocean Service explains:
"At the end of a gestation period usually lasting from two to four weeks, the pregnant male’s abdominal area begins to undulate rhythmically, and strong muscular contractions eject from a few dozen to as many as 1,000 fully formed baby seahorses into the surrounding water. After that, the offspring must fend for themselves. Large litters are necessary because only about 0.5 percent will survive to adulthood."
While that seahorse did an amazing job at carrying all those babies and birthing them into the wide, open ocean, if quantity is what you're after, you'd better watch the video below, which shows a male seahorse giving birth at the Deep Hull 'submarium' in the UK. He's like the tiniest, most delicate clown car... holy crap, they just keep coming!