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Seahorse dad gives birth in boost for endangered species

Kamahl Cogdon, January 25, 2021 8:30AM Kids News

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White’s seahorses born at the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium will be released into the wild to boost populations of the endangered species. Picture: Toby Zerna media_cameraWhite’s seahorses born at the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium will be released into the wild to boost populations of the endangered species. Picture: Toby Zerna

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Rare footage has been captured of a male seahorse giving birth to dozens of babies at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium.

Seahorses and their pipefish and sea dragon relatives are the only species where the male gets pregnant and has the babies.

The female seahorse deposits* her eggs in the male’s pouch, where he fertilises* them. The eggs then grow into babies in the male’s pouch for about 20 days before being born.

Sea Life Sydney’s seahorse dad gave birth to the tiny babies, each smaller than a grain of rice, in the final days of 2020 as part of a breeding program that aims to restore* the population of White’s seahorses in the wild.

White’s seahorses, also known as Sydney seahorses, have been declared endangered* because of habitat loss.

Male seahorse gives birth

Aquarium staff said the babies were growing well.

“We have over 100 White’s seahorse babies and are expecting more,” said aquarist and seahorse expert Mitchell Brennan.

The White’s Seahorse Conservation Breeding Program, run by the aquarium, NSW Department of Primary Industries Fisheries and the University of Technology Sydney, began in the second half of 2019. It aims to repopulate* the species in the wild by establishing* new habitats in Sydney Harbour and releasing seahorses born at the aquarium into these habitats, which are nicknamed “seahorse hotels”.

White's Seahorse babies at Sydney Aquarium, in Darling harbour, Sydney which are going to be released into Sydney Harbour 17/05/2009. media_cameraWhite’s seahorses are endangered in the wild.

The “seahorse hotels” start as artificial* habitats that resemble* crates that are lowered into the water. But they transform into natural habitats as they are grown over by corals, algae and encrusting animals, such as sea squirts and sponges, that move in and provide protection from predators and a ready supply of food.

The artificial structures are biodegradable* and slowly collapse over time under the weight of the marine growth, leaving a new natural habitat that’s a perfect home for seahorses.

The conservation breeding program released 90 young seahorses into the artificial habitats at Clifton Gardens on Sydney Harbour in its first year.

Endangered White's seahorses thrive after being released into the wild in Sydney

The released seahorses have fitted in well in the wild, with several mating with wild seahorses.

“We are very pleased with the progress of this conservation program for Australia’s only endangered seahorse,” said Dr David Harasti, senior marine scientist at the Department of Primary Industries Fisheries.

“Seeing captive released animals still alive in the wild eight months after release and breeding with the local population is a fantastic initial* result.”

GLOSSARY

  • deposits: puts
  • fertilises: adds sperm so the eggs grow into babies
  • restore: bring back
  • endangered: at risk of extinction in the wild
  • repopulate: build up the numbers
  • establishing: making
  • artificial: made by humans
  • resemble: look like
  • biodegradable: able to break down in the environment so it doesn’t become pollution
  • initial: first or early

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How long do baby seahorses spend in their father’s pouch before being born?
  2. How big were the babies when they were born?
  3. What other name are White’s seahorses known by?
  4. What nickname has been given to the artificial habitats being established in Sydney Harbour?
  5. How many seahorses have been released into the artificial habitats?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
Write a List
Rewrite this story from the point of view of one of the seahorses – you can choose the male or the female  adult or one of the babies!

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity. 
Curriculum Links: English, Science

2. Extension
The seahorses have become endangered because of habitat loss. What do you think are the causes for habitat loss for sea animals like  White’s seahorses? Write a list of as many things that you can think of. For each item on your list write some ideas about how this could be stopped.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity.
Curriculum Links: English, Geography, Science

VCOP ACTIVITY
Grammar and VCOP
The glossary of terms helps you to understand and learn the ambitious vocabulary being used in the article. Can you use the words outlined in the glossary to create new sentences? Challenge yourself to include other VCOP (vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation) elements in your sentence/s.

Have another look through the article, can you find any other Wow Words not outlined in the glossary?

HAVE YOUR SAY: What’s your favourite marine animal and why?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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