Male pipefishes and their seahorse cousins are the only males that actually become pregnant and give birth, but pipefishes likely will never win any Father of The Year awards their attitude towards their offspring can range from total love to total neglect, according to new findings from Texas A&M University researchers.
Kim Paczolt and Adam Jones, researchers in the Department of Biology, found that the male pipefish can be a nurturing father as it tends its young before giving birth, but later it may not choose to make the effort. The key factor for this attitude: How the male feels about the mother.
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the findings are published in the current issue of "Nature" magazine.
The Texas A&M researchers studied consecutive broods in male Gulf pipefish to understand why some offspring survive while others do not. Their results reveal that the males who were especially fond of the females they had mated with were more likely to show a nurturing attitude toward their offspring. In almost every case, those that were not overly fond of the mother were less nurturing toward their young.
"The bottom line seems to be, if the male likes the mom, the kids are treated better," Paczolt explains.
"Why this occurs, we don't fully understand, but our findings are quite specific about this relationship between the male pipefish and its mate. If the male prefers the female, he treats their mutual offspring better."
Pipefishes are found worldwide and are especially prevalent in tropical and subtropical waters, including the U.S. Gulf Coast. They are 4-5 inches in length and somewhat resemble a stretched-out version of a seahorse.
Like the seahorse, the male pipefish becomes pregnant and gives birth. The Gulf pipefish can carry from 5 to 40 developing offspring at one time in its specialized brood pouch.
Pipefishes and seahorses are part of a family of marine life called syngnat
|Contact: Keith Randall|
Texas A&M University