Baby Pot-Bellied Seahorses Debut

What could possibly be cuter than pot-bellied seahorses? Baby pot-bellied seahorses—a “herd” of which were recently born at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)’s New York Aquarium.

These aren’t just any babies—the little fry are the result of a program to breed pot-bellied seahorses, a threatened species native to Australia‘s shallow, rocky reefs.

A pot-bellied seahorse and young. Photograph courtesy Julie Larsen Maher.

The species—whose numbers are declining due to harvesting for pets and Asian traditional medicine—is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international agreement to prevent international trade of species at risk.

Other seahorse species are also vulnerable to extinction due to depletion of coastal habitats, pollution, and rampant harvesting, according to National Geographic.

However, some cleanup programs have brought seahorses back: Short-snouted seahorses have set up residence in the recovering River Thames, conservationists said in 2008. The fish were found in surveys that assessed the health of the once heavily polluted river.

(Also see pictures of pygmy seahorses found in Asia.)

A pot-bellied seahorse and young. Photograph courtesy Julie Larsen Maher.

As any schoolkid can tell you, seahorses have an unusual reproductive strategy in which the male “gives birth.” Actually, it all begins when a female deposits about 1,500 eggs into the male’s brood pouch, where they’re fertilized, according to WCS. The male then carries the eggs for a month until the babies hatch.

As for the pot-bellied newborns, they’ll live in a separate tank and munch on a diet of freshly hatched brine shrimp until they’re bigger, according to WCS.

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Meet the Author
Christine Dell'Amore, environment writer/editor for National Geographic News, has reported from six continents, including Antarctica. She has also written for Smithsonian magazine and the Washington Post. Christine holds a masters degree in journalism with a specialty in environmental reporting from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her book, South Pole, was published in 2012.