A team of UBC researchers is celebrating after filming what may be the world’s only video a wild seahorse birth.
In the video, you can see the pregnant father clinging to seagrass, when suddenly tiny offspring begin to emerge from a pouch in its abdomen.
The birth was captured in the waters off New South Wales, Australia by Clayton Manning and Meagan Abele, researchers with Project Seahorse, a marine conservation group based out of UBC and the Zoological Society of London.
Manning says he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“First off, I was blown away. And second I was hoping Meagan had her camera with her. And then I thought I wonder if this has ever been recorded in the wild before.”
Seahorse births have been recorded in captivity before, but Manning says since he made the video he hasn’t been able to find a documented case of one in the wild.
“Finding a seahorse itself is actually quite difficult. And then when you do find it, finding a male is half the time, and finding one pregnant… so just the odds of finding one that’s ready to actually give birth is actually quite low.”
Seahorses are unusual in that males of the species actually do the birthing. Females implant fertilized eggs in the male’s abdominal pouch, where they sit for several weeks before emerging.
Worldwide, seahorse populations are under pressure from fishing and habitat destruction.
Manning says he hopes the interest in his and Abele’s video can help to stop that.
“I hope that people realize that this is a pretty cool thing, so hopefully people understand by conserving species like seahoreses and the marine environment in general, this sort of thing won’t be a rarity in the future.”
Manning and Abele are part of a team studying the effects of soft coral and sponge habitats on Seahorse populations in Port Stephens.