Male seahorses give birth to babies, research revealed

Male seahorses give birth to babies, research revealed

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Sea Horse


  • Male seahorses tilt their bodies to the tail during childbirth
  • Muscles control the opening of the seahorse pouch
  • attaches to bones via tendons

Sea Animals: Seahorses or equine and pipefish are two such species, in which the male conceives and gives birth to a child. Male equine incubates their growing embryos in a pouch attached to their tail. This sac of equine is similar to the uterus of female mammals. It contains a placenta, which is attached to the developing fetus. Male equines provide nutrients and oxygen to their young in line with the genetic characteristics of mammals. However, when it comes to giving birth, our research shows that male seahorses use their unique body structure to manage the pain of childbirth.

how animals give birth

How Animals Give Birth Giving birth to a baby is a complex biological process that is controlled by hormones, including oxytocin, in female pregnant animals. In mammals and reptiles, oxytocin promotes contraction of the smooth muscles of the uterus. There are three main types of muscles: smooth muscle, skeletal muscle, and cardiac muscle. Smooth muscle is found in the walls of most internal organs and blood vessels. This muscle does not require any kind of control. For example, your intestines are lined with smooth muscle, which works to move food through your intestine rhythmically, without your control or direction.

Oxytocin plays an important role
Skeletal muscle is found throughout your body and attaches to bones via tendons, which allow the body to move. This type of muscle is under conscious control. For example, you can consciously bend your arm when your biceps muscles contract. Cardiac muscle is specialized for the heart and is also under involuntary control. The wall of the uterus in female mammals has abundant smooth muscle. Oxytocin causes this smooth muscle to contract, which leads to labor. These uterine contractions are spontaneous and involuntary.

How do male seahorses give birth?
We can measure these uterine contractions in response to oxytocin, and the results are consistent in both mammals and reptiles. How do male seahorses give birth? Our team of researchers from the University of Sydney and the University of Newcastle set out to determine how labor occurs in male seahorses. Our genetic data suggested that labor pain in seahorses may involve a process similar to labor in female mammals.

pain during childbirth
A study in 1970 also showed that when non-pregnant male seahorses were exposed to the fish version of oxytocin, they behaved in labor. We therefore predicted that male seahorses would use oxytocin—the family hormone—to control the process of giving birth by contracting the smooth muscles inside the brood pouch. What we found First, we exposed pieces of seahorse sac to isotocin. Istocin activated our control tissues (intestine), surprisingly this hormone did not cause any contraction in the brood pouch. This result led us to think about the structure of the pouch.

Examine with the help of a microscope
When we examined the sac under a microscope, we found that it contained only scattered small clumps of smooth muscle, much smaller than the uterus of female mammals. This explained why the sac was not activated in our experiments. Therefore, we predicted that male seahorses would use oxytocin—the family hormone—to control the process of giving birth by contracting the smooth muscle inside the brood pouch. Using 3D imaging techniques combined with microscopy, we then compared the anatomy of male and female pot-bellied seahorses. In males we found three bones near the beginning of the sac, which were attached to the large skeletal muscles. These types of bones and muscles control the anal fin in other species of fish.

Seahorses have big bones
In seahorses, the anal fin is small and performs little or no function in swimming, so the large muscles attached to the fin of a small seahorse are surprising. The muscles and bones of the anal fin are much larger in male seahorses than in female seahorses, and their orientation suggests that they can control the gate of the sac. During childbirth, male seahorses tilt their bodies towards the tail, press down and then relax. During this process, the mouth of the sac is opened with a jerk all over the body and slowly hundreds of newborn seahorses are seen floating in the sea water.

Follow these methods to give birth to children
Our findings suggest that opening the sac for courtship and childbirth is facilitated by contraction of the large skeletal muscles located near the mouth of the sac. We believe that these muscles control the opening of the seahorse pouch, allowing seahorse fathers to consciously control the birth of their babies at the end of pregnancy. Future biomechanical and electrophysiological studies are needed to investigate the force required to activate these muscles and to test whether they control the process of sac opening. Male seahorses during pregnancy adopt a unique approach to give birth to their young, despite their resemblance to female mammals and reptiles.

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