Feb. 7, 2007 - Just two weeks after the birth of the first stingray ever born at Coral World, park staff are heralding the latest arrival to the Coral World family: a batch of 22 baby seahorses born on Friday.
And, according to a press release issued Wednesday, more seahorses are soon on the way. The mating pair will mate again within days of giving birth, so the male is nearly always pregnant during the breeding season.
That's right — in the seahorse world its the male that does all the work. According to the release, the female deposits her eggs in a kangaroo-like pouch on his belly, and he fertilizes the eggs.
In two to six weeks, depending on the species, the eggs hatch and the male literally "squirts out" baby seahorses from a slit in the top of the pouch. Labor can last up to 72 hours. The babies, perfect replicas of their parents, are only a quarter-inch long at birth.
The baby seahorses are currently being held in their own tank in Coral Worlds marine animal hospital. We are feeding them tiny brine shrimp, which are hatched out by our marine operations staff, said Peter Noah, vice president of operations. Seahorses in general are picky eaters, preferring to feed on live shrimp that must be either cultured or collected live on a daily basis, he said. In the wild, the survival rate of newborn seahorses is only about 1 percent. The survival rate in captivity ranges from 1 to 25 percent.
With the approval of the Department of Planning & Natural Resources, we plan to release some of the seahorses into the wild once they have reached at least an inch in size and are better equipped to fend for themselves, said Noah. In 1998 Coral World initiated a seahorse-breeding program, at which point the park's seahorses were breeding so prolifically that all the creatures could not be housed.
With the help of volunteers, approximately 1,000 seahorses were released in protected mangrove habitats around St. Thomas and St. John.
Noah explained that male and female seahorses are monogamous, keeping the same partner for a whole breeding season, or possibly even for life. Each morning the pair greets one another in a ritualized dance to strengthen their bond.
Guests can visit the adult seahorses on display in Coral Worlds marine gardens gallery of 21 aquariums. Next to the adult seahorse tank guests can get a closer look at a group of juvenile seahorses born several months ago.
For further information, contact Coral World at 775-1555.
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