seahorse #18,  [142K]

Nearly all species of seahorses develop long-term pair bonds, and remain faithfully dedicated to their partners. During the latter part of the day I witnessed these two aquarium specimens* engaged in what appeared to be a greeting or mating ritual, as they faced each other belly to belly and ascended the water column. They may have been mating or about to mate, since this is very similar to the position in which the female inserts the eggs into the male's brood pouch (the seahorse is on the left is definitely a female). The actual transfer happens in only a few seconds, though in some species the entire mating ritual may take place over several hours. With H. whitei (White's seahorse) for example, the two partners may change color and pirouette around an object for up to nine hours, with intermittent periods when they loop their tails together and parade across the bottom.

In some species the "morning greeting" is observed to consist of the male and female swirling with their tails around a common object, and grasping tails as they twirl around in a type of dance for several minutes. Afterward they both go about their own business for the rest of the day. This behavior seems to promote familiarity between mates, which is important since when the female is ready to mate the transfer of eggs must take place within a limited time (around 24 hours in some studies) before the eggs are discarded.

Identification: not yet identified, I'm working on it

*background replaced with seawater image


related links:'s video vault: includes courtship rituals, giving birth

Nova transcript of "Kingdom of the Seahorse": detailed description by Dr. Amanda Vincent of seahorse mating and ritualistic behaviors

seahorse facts from the Calvert Marine Museum