The male seahorses have a methodical and gestation similarities with the human pregnancy among women according to research.
Pregnancy in all creatures is a complex duration. Every animal, big or small has to carry their young at some time during their lives. While some species carry and lay eggs, others give birth to fully formed babies.
The process of pregnancy involves goals like providing oxygen and nutrition to their embryos. Some of the species have adopted the mechanism to combine similar genes to form their offspring.
Findings co-authored by Dr Camilla Whittington from the University's School of Biological Sciences were published today in Molecular Biology and Evolution. Camilla did a detailed study on the pregnancies among seahorses.
"Surprisingly, seahorse dads do a lot of the same things human mums do," said Dr Whittington. "Seahorse babies get a lot of nutrients via the egg yolk provided by their mothers but the pouch of the fathers has also evolved to meet the complex challenges of providing additional nutrients and immunological protection, and ensuring gas exchange and waste removal. "
Seahorses are the most unique species in the animal kingdom where the male is responsible for the gestation and breeding. The gestation period lasts 24-days in the sea creature. They provide pouches for their young to gestate in.
This is a role mostly played among mammals by the female. Their research involved taking samples from brood pouches and assessing how gene expression changes during the course of pregnancy. It is the first RNA sequencing study - monitoring how much genes switch on and off - across the full course of pregnancy in any animal.
The provision of nutrition and oxygen is thence the responsibility of the male. The study found that male seahorses are able to deliver nutrients to their developing embryos. These particularly energy-rich lipids, and calcium allow them to build their tiny skeletons. It is likely these nutrients are secreted in the brood pouch and then absorbed by embryos.
"Regardless of your species, pregnancy presents a number of complex challenges, like ensuring you can provide oxygen and nutrients to your embryos. We have evolved independently to meet these challenges, but our research suggests that even distantly related animals use similar genes to manage pregnancy and produce healthy offspring."
Whittington has commented that seahorse dads do a lot of the same things human mums do. Seahorse babies get a lot of nutrients via the egg yolk provided by their mothers. But the pouch of the fathers has also evolved to meet the complex challenges of providing additional nutrients.
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Seahorse males also provide immunological protection, and ensure gas exchange and waste removal. The process, the researchers admitted was very close to the human pregnancy. They also found male seahorses' gene expression during pregnancy was similar to that of humans.