Unique Mating Strategies of Aquatic Animals, Cont'd

What better way to spend the days leading up to Valentine’s Day than to learn about how these iconic aquatic species find the perfect mate?

Published February 13, 2017

Coral Spawning

Many people are surprised to learn that the beautiful coral structures that make up a tropical reef contain millions of microscopic animals. Corals are not only living organisms, some species actually employ rather unique strategies to reproduce.
The reproduction method of elkhorn coral has been of particular interest to scientists over the last few decades, as they race to save this critically endangered species. Elkhorn is a species of coral that develops thick, antler-like branches, iconic to the look of many Caribbean coral reefs. They grow relatively quickly (for coral), with branches increasing in length by up to 4 inches every year.

Elkhorn coral can reproduce sexually and asexually. Each colony of corals includes both male and female structures, all of which are simultaneously hermaphroditic. Sexual reproduction for these colonies only occurs once a year, in late summer during a full moon.


Seahorses flip the script when it comes to mating and pregnancy. For these animals, it is the male’s responsibility to fertilize and carry the young after successfully capturing the attention of a female.

To ensure that their potential mate is properly bonded to them before engaging in breeding, male and female seahorses will come together repeatedly for "dances." During these brief interludes, both parties can properly assess the other’s reproductive status.seahorses

If they’re both satisfied, the female will transfer her eggs, which can range in number from a couple hundred to well over a thousand, to the male’s brood pouch. The male will then fertilize the eggs with sperm and carry the eggs to term, which takes approximately three weeks.

During this time, the female stays close by. After the male gives birth to their live, independent offspring, the female will often immediately transfer more eggs to the male and the process begins again.

Miss part one of this series? Read it here.

Previous Post

Featured Stories

Jellies in petri dish Welcome to the Jelly Jungle

Deep inside the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) building, the National Aquarium runs a little-known lab. Here we carry out the propagation of jellies, many of which later end up on exhibit in Jellies Invasion. Read on for a peek into the process!

Read the full story

Cold stunned turtle Cold Stunning: Where, How and Why?

Picture this: You’ve just spent a wonderful, late summer week on Cape Cod, swimming in the ocean and enjoying the sunshine with friends and family. As fall sets in, you know it’s time to head home. You get on the highway, but something strange happens … despite driving for hours, you end up back where you started. You feel sluggish, confused and exhausted. If you were a turtle, you just might be cold-stunned.

Read the full story

Related Stories

Unique Mating Strategies of Aquatic Animals

Published February 06, 2017

Animal Update: Seahorses

Published June 20, 2018