Spotted seahorses maintain a faithful association with only one partner (Clayton, 2003). A new mate is sought only when a partner dies. Seahorses in general have a complex mating system, which is characterized by a unique courtship ritual (John G. Shedd Aquarium, 2004). The male begins by changing its color patterns as it dances around the female. It also produces clicking sounds with its coronet. The pair proceeds with the ritual by entwining their tails together and floating across the ocean floor. Eventually the male and female face each other belly-to-belly at which time the female places her eggs into the male’s brooding pouch with her ovipositor. This courtship ritual is modified and repeated daily even after the male has become pregnant. Each morning the pair comes together to dance, change colors, and entwine tails.
Mating System: monogamous
The age at which female and male H. kuda reach sexual maturity is unknown ("Project Seahorse", 2003). However the presence of a brooding pouch on the male - the site where the male carries the fertilized eggs- signifies male sexual maturity. Breeding occurs year round (John G. Shedd Aquarium, 2004). A female may return to lay a new batch of eggs in her partner's pouch the same day that juveniles are released. Gestation generally occurs within 20 to 28 days (Lourie et al., 2004). The maximum reported brood size is 1405, but a brooding pouch may contain anywhere from 20 to 1000 fertilized eggs. Generally only 100 to 200 juvenile seahorses are actually produced per pregnancy (Lally and Hough, 1999).
Breeding interval: Breeding may occur every 20 to 28 days.
Breeding season: Breeding occurs year round.
Range number of offspring: 1405 (high) .
Average number of offspring: 20-1000.
Range gestation period: 20 to 28 days.
Range time to independence: 20 to 28 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 14 weeks.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 14 weeks.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous
Like other seahorses, H. kuda has an unusual mode of reproduction where the female provides the eggs but the male carries and cares for the embryos in its brooding pouch ("Project Seahorse, 2003). While the male carries its brood for 20 to 28 days, the developing larvae are constantly nourshied with a placental-like fluid that is secreted within its pouch. This fluid removes waste products and supplies the fertilized eggs with oxygen and nutrients. As the pregnancy proceeds, the placental fluid gradually changes its chemical content and becomes more similar to the surrounding seawater. This fluid change minimizes the shock newborns experience when they hatch and are released into an environment with higher salt content. These newly released juveniles are fully independent and do not require any parental care once they leave the brooding pouch.
Parental Investment: pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Male, Protecting: Male)
- John G. Shedd Aquarium. 2004. "Oceanic Seahorse" (On-line). John G. Shedd Aquarium. Accessed November 19, 2004 at http://www.sheddaquarium.org/sea/fact_sheets_print.cfm?id=90.
- 2003. "The biology of seahorses" (On-line). Project Seahorse. Accessed October 21, 2004 at www.projectseahorse.org.
- Clayton, B. 2003. "Welfare implications of the commercial use of seahorses Hippocampus sp." (On-line). Veterinary Education and Information Network. Accessed November 19, 2004 at http://vein.library.usyd.edu.au/links/Essays/2003/clayton.html.
- Lally, K., P. Hough. 1999. Seahorses - A Forgotten Species. Reef Research, 9 (3): 1-2. Accessed November 18, 2004 at http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/corp_site/info_services/publications/reef_research/issue3_99/rr_pg31-32.html.
- Lourie, S., S. Foster, E. Cooper, A. Vincent. 2004. Guide to the Identification of Seahorses. Washington D.C.: University of British Columbia and World Wildlife Fund. Accessed October 14, 2004 at http://www.projectseahorse.org/.
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