Sept. 1, 1999

Hail to thee blithe seahorse..


I happened to catch part of the PBS Nova program last evening. I usually don't last long with science-and-nature shows.. they either gross me out or put me to sleep. This one, however, held my attention.

It was about seahorses.. never before an animal near and dear to my heart, but that's all changed now: it seems that with seahorses, it's the MALE that gets pregnant!!!

So, the male has a pouch in his belly, comparable to a womb, according to the program. They showed video of erotic seahorse acts, wherein the female, with some difficulty, positions herself in order to shoot her eggs into this pouch, where they will be fertilized with the male's sperm and incubated. Eventually the male "gives birth" (contractions and all!) to numerous tiny little seahorses who swim away and promptly get eaten (well mostly, anyway).

And what does the male do, the very next day after the ordeal of birthing?? Gets pregnant all over again! (Anything to avoid getting a job..) This also gives new meaning to the expression "barefoot and pregnant".. or should that be barefinned...

In view of all this, I wondered if maybe the male wasn't really female and vice versa.. but the announcer said that the male, even though he fulfills a function that is generally considered female, produces the sperm and therefore is defined as male. Same argument re the egg-producing female.

The male seahorse is also the homebody, spending much of his time clinging to sea plants in one spot. The female is the one who ventures out into the world and returns to find her mate still in bed at home, watching tv and eating chocolates. They didn't say what the female actually DID out in the world, though.

Understandably, seahorse couples are extremely monogamous.. after all, if you found a man who would bear your children, you'd keep him around, right?? The problem with this is, seahorses are extensively farmed throughout the world and sold in Chinese markets, where they are considered an aphrodisiac because of their ability to keep their mates satisfied. This causes some concern re a decline in seahorse population, especially on the part of the seahorses themselves.

In view of the above revelations, I am happy to report that the female seahorse has eclipsed the female black widow spider (the one who eats the male when she's done with him) as my new heroine and role model.


seahorse



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Graphics courtesy of                  Boogie Jack's Web Depot

Except the seahorse, glommed from here