Most people won’t ever encounter a wild seahorse in their lifetime, let alone be lucky enough to catch one just as it’s giving birth.
But that’s exactly what happened to a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia. In a blog post, Clayton Manning, a master’s student with the conservation group Project Seahorse, writes that he was “mesmerized” when he noticed a pregnant male during his fourth research dive off the coast of Australia.
“We were doing a survey and found a very, very pregnant male that had a tiny tail sticking out of his brood pouch,” Manning said in a press release. “I had just finished getting his measurements and a baby shot out of the opening. So we sat back and watched the father for a while.”
What they ended up seeing was between 100 to 250 baby seahorses shooting out of the father. They’re so tiny that they look like little spaghetti strands that immediately get sucked into the strong ocean current. While seahorse births have been documented on video many times, most of those instances came from seahorses in captivity. It’s rare to see something like this in the wild.
Strangely, seahorses are one of the few animals in the world where the female deposits eggs into a pouch in the male’s abdomen. The pregnant dad then fertilizes, feeds and carries the embryos.
“This is their time to breed,” said UBC alumna Meagan Abele. “Many of the males we’re finding are super pregnant and ready to burst. It’s surreal to watch it happen.”
Just in case you’re wondering though, the odds of those little guys surviving is pretty slim. The Seahorse Trust reports that fewer than one in one thousand will actually make it.
Check out the big birth in the video above.