Seahorses are tiny fish species that are named after the shape of their heads which look like a horse’s head. There are about 40 known species of seahorse. These fish species are found all over the world in shallow tropical and temperate waters. They can also be found in waters surrounding New Zealand, UK and Eastern Canada. These exotic marine creatures have very few marine predators because it is too bony and indigestible, but the crab is the main predator of this species.
Below are a few facts about these little magnificent aquatic creatures.
Diet: Carnivorous (fish, shrimps, plankton, fish larvae)
Size: 2 – 35 cm depending on species
Lifespan: 1 – 5 years
Habitat: Ocean (shallow tropical and temperate waters)
Conservation Status: Endangered
Threats: Illegal fishing, natural predators, pollution, aquatic disasters
- Seahorses prefer to swim in pairs with their tails linked together. Because of their body shape, seahorses are rather inept swimmers and can easily die of exhaustion when caught in storm-roiled seas.
- They swim upright and avoid predators (mostly crabs) by mimicking the colour of underwater plants.
- Seahorses propel themselves by using a small fin on their back that flutters up to 35 times per second. Even smaller pectoral fins located near the back of the head are used for steering.
- Two species of seahorse are found in coastal waters of UK and Ireland, the Spiny Seahorse and the Short-Snouted Seahorse.
They can live in a variety of habitat’s from coral reefs to mud flats to sea grass patches, where they hang onto blades with their prehensile tails to keep from being taken by the ocean’s currents.
- They anchor themselves with their prehensile tails to sea grasses and corals, they use their elongated snouts to suck in plankton and small crustaceans that drift by. The seahorse can suck up food from as far as 3cm away.
- Seahorses have no teeth or stomach. Food passes through their digestive systems so quickly, they must eat almost constantly to stay alive. Because of this, they can consume 3,000 or more brine shrimp per day.
- Seahorses mainly feed on little shrimp, tiny fish, plankton and fish larvae.
- A seahorse can move each of its eyes independently, so it can follow the activity of passing sea life without giving its presence away.
- Seahorses use camouflage and can change colour and grow little lumps and bumps to match their surroundings! Some species also have little spines on the top of their head, called a coronet, which is another word for crown.
- Seahorses vary widely in size, they can be as small as a pumpkin seed or as large as a banana. The smallest seahorse is Indonesia’s Satomi’s pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus satomiae) with an average length of 13.8 mm.
- The largest species is Australia’s Big Bellied seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis) that can grow up to 35 cm long.
- Seahorses are famous for their monogamous relationships and male pregnancies.
- Seahorses are among the only animal species on Earth in which the male bears the unborn young.
- Male pregnancy frees the female to make more eggs straight away and so reproduce quicker. When mating, the female seahorse releases up to 50 eggs into an oviduct in the male’s body, which is housed in a brood pouch.
- The male seahorse carries the eggs in his pouch until they hatch, then releases fully formed, miniature seahorses into the water. As little as 5 or as many as 1,500 young (called frys) can be born.
- Members of the Syngnathidae family, are the only marine species to have true male pregnancies.
- Babies are born fully formed, about the size of a jelly bean after about 45 days and are completely independent of their parents.
- In the breeding season, the mates come together and perform courtship dances which includes spinning around, swimming side by side, changing colours and entwining their tails, this could last up to eight hours.
Seahorses are also the most endangered aquatic species in the world, where Thailand is known as the main exporter of the species despite putting a blanket ban on the trade. In traditional Chinese medicine it is believed that seahorses have Viagra-like properties, and are also thought to support cure kidney disease, anti-aging, anti-tumour and anti-fatigue despite zero proof in human populations that confirm their efficacy.
I hope you enjoyed the amazing facts above about these exotic horse-like, caterpillar-like and kangaroo-like fish. Just because they are seahorses, it doesn’t mean you can go over them and expect a ride. They can barely leap. Wink! Wink!
Which of these seahorse facts is your favourite? Let us know in the comment box.