In honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, get to know one of the animal kingdom’s most unusual dads.
Pipefish are the skinny, serpentine relatives of seahorses. And as in seahorses, pipefish parenting roles are reversed – males are actually the ones to get pregnant. Female pipefish transfer their eggs into a pouch on the male’s stomach, where the embryos incubate until they hatch. After they’re born, baby pipefish are on their own.
Research has shown that male pipefish don’t treat all of their offspring equally – they sometimes “eat” embryos, perhaps to make up for high energy costs of pregnancy. Some pipefish can even choose which eggs will successfully hatch (spoiler alert: they take better care of eggs from the largest, most attractive females).
This northern pipefish was collected collected on a DNR SEAMAP research cruise and photographed by the Southeastern Regional Taxonomic Center (SERTC) at our Marine Center in Charleston.
See more images from SERTC’s collections here.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.