What do male seahorses and women have in common?

Answer: pregnancy.

Unlike most animals, it is the male seahorses that give birth to live young. A new study conducted at the University of Sydney and published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, found that the male seahorses not only carry out the pregnancy, they also supply nutrients to the developing embryos, including fats and calcium. The researchers suspect that these nutrients are secreted into the brood pouch where they can be absorbed by developing embryos. According to quote from study author Dr. Whittington, published in the International Business Times, "Seahorse babies get a lot of nutrients via the egg yolk provided by their mothers, but the pouch of the fathers has also evolved to meet the complex challenges of providing additional nutrients and immunological protection, and ensuring gas exchange and waste removal."

Interestingly, the researchers also discovered that the brood pouch in male seahorses undergoes changes in gene expression that are similar to genes that regulate reproductive function in pregnant mammals, other live-bearing fish, and reptiles. According to a quote from Dr. Whittington published in the International Business Times, "Regardless of your species, pregnancy presents a number of complex challenges, like ensuring you can provide oxygen and nutrients to your embryos. We have evolved independently to meet these challenges, but our research suggests that even distantly related animals use similar genes to manage pregnancy and produce healthy offspring."

Thankfully, a major difference is the number of offspring per pregnancy:


Whittington CM, Griffith OW, Qi W, Thompson MB, Wilson AB. Seahorse brood pouch transcriptome reveals common genes associated with vertebrate pregnancy. Mol Biol Evol. (In Press) doi: 10.1093/molbev/msv177

International Business Times

Video from YouTube

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I thought I read that it is the male seahorse, not the unicorn, which is Caitlyn Jenner's favorite animal.

By See Noevo (not verified) on 02 Sep 2015 #permalink

You never really have a substantial point about anything in science do you sn? It must be the words with more than two syllables that put your uneducated mind off.

All jokes about Jenner aside, there WAS a primary care practice in San Jose, led by Joy D. Shaffer, M.D. who is a transwomen (MTF transsexual) that was called the "Seahorse Medical Clinic". Joy was my roommate at Stanford when she was a medical student and I was a graduate student. The seahorse was HER favorate animal.

Oh... and the Unicorn was my adopted daughter's!

OK, back to science. In fish, the definition of "male" and "female" is somewhat fluid, in that many species can "change sex"... in that the individual which provides the sessile gamate and the motile gamete can change over time. In the case of the sea horse, we only call this pregnant sex "male" because it provides the motile gamete... but in other respects, it behaves similarly to female mammals.

By Kay Brown (not verified) on 02 Sep 2015 #permalink