Page 8 - June 16, 2021
P. 8

{ 8 }  SNJ Today  |  JUNE 16, 2021                                                                                                                                                                                                                               JUNE 16, 2021  |   { 9 }
                    THE GREAT OUTDOORS

               Diligent Dads                                                   brood size, to their nestlings. Chicks fledge   ings. So in this dance, seahorses often   erectus) maintains an upright position, us-
                                                                                                                                                            The lined seahorse (Hippocampus
                                                                               at about 18 days so that equals 6,000 to
                                                                                                                   intertwine tails and shift their hue to gray,
                                                                                                                                                       ing its prehensile tail to attach to aquatic
                                                                                                                   black, red, green, olive, orange, brassy, or
                                                                               9,000 trips to raise their offspring success-
                                                                                                                                                         plants and anchor itself in currents. Its
                                                                               fully. Parenting is a team effort.  yellow—very fancy. They can have fleshy   small fins propel through the water with
        In the wild animal world, there are a number of                        ing sustenance to their young. “Ducks?”   tabs that further camouflage them against   rapid beats of 30 times per second.
                                                                                 Owls and other raptors share in provid-
                                                                                                                                                                 PHOTO: MARCO AMBAUER
                                                                                                                   their surroundings. Their color is not
             nurturing males, including the seahorse.                          you ask. Well, they might benefit from   only for camouflage but can vary based
                                                                               watching The March of the Penguins, too.  upon mood, stress, diet, and environment.
     NATURE AROUND US     J. Morton Galetto, CU Maurice River                    Of our local mammals, red and grey   They have prehensile tails that can grasp
                                                                               foxes are called out as good providers.   objects, including each other. Dance class
                                                                               Males deliver food to the den while the   has just advanced to a tango!
                                                                               cubs and mother stay secluded. After about   Their bond is so strong that if a mate
                                                                               three months this service stops, encourag-  is lost the widower may not ever find
                                                                               ing the cubs to look out for themselves.   another one.
                                                                               But in order for the cubs to be successful   The male has something unique to sea-
                                                                               and learn to hunt on their own, the father   horses—a male brood pouch. The female
                                                                               stashes food for them to discover so they   deposits her eggs in his pouch where they
                                                                               don’t have to go cold turkey. Male foxes   are internally fertilized by him. Then he
                                                                               also play with their cubs, teaching them   incubates them for 21 days, such that he is
                                                                               socialization skills. And speaking of turkey   in essence pregnant. When the embryos
                                                                               and foxes, on two separate occasions I have   are fully matured they hatch from their
                                                                               seen a hen bird chase a fox away from her   egg within the pouch. He thrusts his belly
                                                                               chicks. Brave mama!                 region forward in contractions that expel
                                                                                 In a previous article we spoke about cat-  the young, head first. Each juvenile is a
                                                                               fish that guard and aerate their eggs by fan-  miniature of its adult counterpart. One
                                                                               ning their tail. Now we return to the waters   hundred to 1,000 young are released at
                                                                               for our subject species—not freshwater but   a birthing. Each is about 5/8 of an inch;
                                                                               our tidal bays and their grasses. One animal   not until about eight to 10 months do they
                                                                               might just reign supreme when it comes to   reach their adult size.
                                                                               fatherhood. That would be the lined sea-  Sadly, if he does not expel all of the
                                                                               horse, sometimes called the northern sea-  young a remaining unhatched egg will
                                                                               horse (Hippocampus erectus), which is one   create a gas in the pouch that floats him
              hen it comes to fathering, the an-  The lined seahorse gets its name from its   of 54 species of seahorses worldwide.   to the surface where he becomes food for
              imal world exhibits a spectrum   vertical stripes. They can change colors   Hippocampus erectus is considered   other aquatic animals.
     W from love ’em and leave ’em to     to provide camouflage or denote mood.   one of the larger seahorses, with varying   Why the prehensile tail? Seahorses
     champion surveillance. In honor of Father’s   PHOTO: LINDA DE VOLDER      accounts of them growing to be from four   have tiny fins, both dorsal and pectoral,
     Day, let’s discuss some superior dads.                                    to eight inches. They do not have scales   that are not very effective against cur-
        In the animal kingdom, the emperor   local creatures and focus on one unex-  like other fish but rather are made up of   rents. The pectoral fins are behind what
     penguin male takes sole responsibility for   pected twist in fathering. In past articles,   bony plates beneath their skin that help   would be a mandible in a horse’s head,
     incubating an egg. It is balanced on his   we have discussed some dutiful parents of   to armor them against the elements. The   allowing them to steer. The dorsal fin on
     feet, which he shuffles along the ice of   the avian variety. Kingfisher males build   “lined” in their popular name refers to the   their back propels them forward, beating
     Antarctica for two months, enduring 125   a bachelor burrow about 10 feet from the   dark horizontal lines on a lighter back-  20 to 30 times per second, which makes
     mph winds and –40 degree temperatures.   main nesting hole, from which they pro-  ground, and “seahorse” comes from their   seeing them in action very difficult. (In
     Hundreds of huddling fathers bear this   vide food for their incubating mate, take   horse-shaped head. Their scientific name   comparison, hummingbirds beat about
     responsibility while their mates are at sea   over incubating responsibilities when she   derives from hippos meaning horse and   53 beats per second.) Lined seahorses
     fattening-up. This story of dedication and   hunts, and deliver meals subsequently to   erectus describing their erect or vertical   are small and subject to being pummeled
     endurance is powerful and heart-warming.   the chicks. The close proximity of the hole   position in the water.  about by currents. Thus the prehensile tail
     Emperor penguins’ dedication leads them   gives the male an advantage in knowing   Seahorse mating begins with ritual   enables them to anchor to grasses.
     to be described as the No. 1 exemplary   when he is needed in the main burrow.   dances (May through October) each   This raises an important conservation
     father in a multitude of articles. I highly   He’s always on call!        morning to establish lifelong bonds for the   issue. Submerged aquatic vegetation is
     recommend the 2005 film March of the   Osprey males help build the nest, incu-  monogamous duo. During courtship they   often in short supply because of pollution
     Penguins, which documents this challeng-  bate on occasion, and provide fish daily for   swim side by side in mirror-like move-  issues, disturbance from boat propellors,
     ing fatherly devotion.               nine weeks—up to six pounds a day when   ments. They make clicking sounds in this   and scouring of the bottom by jetskis,
        But our story is not about parental   chicks near fledging. Nuthatches and many   sexy flamenco; note the Spanish side of   WaveRunners, and the like. Nitrogen over-
     neglect; it is about celebrating great dads.   other songbirds provide endless caterpil-  my genetic code making this about casta-  load from stormwater runoff containing
        Let’s bring it home a bit, since most of   lars and other insects to their hatchlings.   nets and romance.   lawn fertilizers and other chemicals causes
     us will never visit Antarctica and certainly   Time for a little math. Chickadees bring   That’s not all; they are able to change   excessive algae, which blocks sunlight
     not in 125 mph winds. We’ll explore some   350 to 570 meals a day, depending on   color to blend in with their surround-  needed for seagrasses and kills them. When
   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13