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Unusual Fish Dads

The Chesapeake Bay’s Northern and Dusky Pipefish

Imagine what a seahorse would look like if it was stretched from both ends until it was taut. It would no longer have that curvy body and tail or the cocked head—just one long, sleek and slender body with a funny-looking tube-like snout. That’s a pipefish. And these close relatives of seahorses reside in the grass beds of our own Chesapeake Bay.

The two local species, the Northern and dusky pipefish, look very similar, both ranging from 6 to 8 inches in length with the pipe-cleaner-like body. The Northern pipefish are the most common and widespread of the two species, and vary from pale tan to brown in color. The dusky pipefish appears whitish to brown.

Just like its seahorse cousin, the males are responsible for carrying and birthing the babies. Female pipefish lay anywhere from 20 to 1,380 eggs in the male’s pouch, where they fertilize and grow for approximately 10 days. Once the father gives birth and releases these baby pipefish into the water, they’re already developed enough to start their lives independently, without the help of Mom and Dad.

While the Syngnathidae family of fish—i.e., pipefish, seahorses, and weedy and leafy sea dragons—is the only one in the animal kingdom to which the term “male pregnancy” has been applied, there are plenty of other extraordinary animal dads in the world.

For example, the Mouth Almighty fish incubates the female’s sack of eggs in its mouth for about two weeks, sacrificing food to care for its developing babies. The emperor penguin also refrains from eating while fulfilling his parental duties—he cradles the egg between his feet, protecting it from the elements until Mom returns from her two-month trek to the ocean for fish.

Visit our blog to learn about more unusual animal dads and how they care for their young.


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