Are You My Mother?

Spring is in the air and it seems like all the little animals are twitterpated.  Outside my kitchen window, two sparrows are building a nest, and a robin has already laid eggs in my wisteria bush.  Under water, similar developments are taking place.  Each time I dive, I look for animals with eggs, or nests of eggs.  The attraction of documenting new life is irresistible to me.  Perhaps it is my maternal instincts, but I often wonder if these little creatures ever know who their mother is?

Cardinal fish with fresh eggs
Cardinal fish with fresh eggs

Cardinal fish are fascinating in that the male fish will gather all the eggs in his mouth and brood them until they hatch.  He will periodically open his mouth wide, and aerate the eggs.  When they are pink, as in the image above, they are newly laid.  Later, the eggs will turn silvery and the eyes of the fry will be visible, as in the image below.  In this case, the babies may hatch to discover who their father is, but wonder about mommy.

Cardinal fish with well developed eggs

Cardinal fish with well developed eggs

Another parent who stays with its eggs until they hatch is this tiny goby.  Sometimes, both parents will care for the eggs, aerating them with their fins.



Both male and female yellow bearded gobies stay with their eggs until they hatch as well.  These fish lay their eggs deep inside the hard corals where they live to help protect them from predators.

Yellow bearded goby with eggs

Yellow bearded goby with eggs

And in the image below, a male and female robust ghost pipe fish await the arrival of their brood which are developing inside a pouch which the female has made between her pelvic fins.  The interesting thing here is that after the eggs have been deposited into this pouch, small branches will grow from her skin and attach to the eggs.  It is thought this acts as a sort of umbilical cord.  Although the robust ghost pipe fish is related to other pipefishes such as sea horses, it is the female, not the male who has the brooding pouch.

A male and female Robush Ghost Pipefish with eggs.

A male and female Robush Ghost Pipefish with eggs.

Clearly, there are responsible mothers AND fathers in the kingdom of the fishes.  We may never read about the tiny newborn fish who wandered around asking the kitten, the hen, and the dog, the cow and the snort, “Are You My Mother?”

 If you enjoy my images please visit my website,, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.
 All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me


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