Here’s some sensual seahorse love for this Valentines Day. Go full screen on this one. It’s worth it.
Seahorses mate for life (one to five years), a rare trait among fish. When they’re ready to pair and breed, single males wind their tails around an anchor of sea grass or coral. Once secured, they put on a showy display of colours, hoping to catch the eye of an interested female. Unpaired females browse the displaying males as if shopping for new shoes – too big, too small, just right – and they really are shopping for the right fit. A seahorse’s size depends on its age, and females tend to select mates their own size.
When a female has made her selection, the new couple begins a long sensual courtship, dancing together, sometimes for a full day, to the rhythms of the sea—floating, circling, stretching, and curling. His tail wrapped around her body, like an arm thrown around her waist, they allemande left, doe-see-doe, and bow to their partners. In sinuous rapture, they shoot for the surface, belly to belly, snouts to the sky, tails trailing below, long and straight. They flirt. She turns away. He nudges her. She turns back. They gracefully rub heads and necks until finally, with tails intertwined, they spiral slowly back to the sandy seafloor.
When the ballet is over, they wrap themselves in a tight embrace and mate, the female depositing her eggs into the male’s pouch. Then the male fastens himself again to the sea grass and the female leaves, disappearing into the undersea meadow. Each morning, from then on, she will return to visit him, and they will briefly dance before she returns to the meadow. It is this daily ritual – her morning visit and their dance – that binds this seahorse couple together. From now on they will mate and produce young every month for the rest of their lives.