Male seahorses can get pregnant because they lack key immunity genes

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seahorse

A male long-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus guttulatus)

STEVE TREWHELLA/Nature Photographers Ltd/Alamy

A missing or dysfunctional part of the vertebrate immune system might explain why male seahorses and pipefishes can carry a pregnancy – and could possibly inspire novel treatments for immune-related diseases in humans and other animals.

Seahorses and some of their slender cousins, pipefishes, thrive in “an ocean of microbes”, according to Olivia Roth at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany. But they do so despite having inactive or entirely absent major histocompatibility complex II (MHC-2) genes, which have long been …

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