Seahorse 101

So you wanna know something about seahorses, eh?
Let’s begin!

First off, what does “Seahorse” stand for?
the Latin name for seahorse is Hippocampus, which means “Horse Caterpillar“. Coming from the Ancient Greek word hippos meaning “Horse” and kampos meaning “Sea Monster“.

What is a Seahorse? 
Seahorses are mainly found in shallow tropical and temperate waters throughout the world and live in sheltered areas such as seagrass beds, estuaries, coral reefs, or mangroves. Four species are found in Pacific waters from North America to South America.
Three species live in the Mediterranean Sea: H. guttulatus (the long-snouted seahorse), H. hippocampus (the short-snouted seahorse), and H. fuscus (the sea pony). These species form territories; males stay within 11 sq ft of habitat, while females range about one hundred times that.

Size – Seahorses range in size from 0.6 to 14.0 in.

They are named for their equine appearance with bent necks and long snouted heads followed by their distinctive trunk and tail. They don’t have scales, but rather thin skin stretched over a series of bony plates, which are arranged in rings throughout their bodies. Each species has a distinct number of rings.

How do they swim?
Seahorses swim upright, another characteristic not shared by their close pipe fish relatives, which swim horizontally.They swim upright propelling themselves by using the dorsal fin. The pectoral fins located on either side of the head are used for maneuvering. They lack the caudal fish typical of fishes. Their prehensile tail can only be unlocked in the most extreme conditions.Seahorses swim very poorly, rapidly fluttering a dorsal fin and using pectoral fin (located behind their eyes) to steer. The slowest-moving fish in the world is H. Zosterae (the dwarf seahorse), with a top speed of about 5 ft per hour.

Defenses – They are adept at camouflage with the ability to grow and reabsorb spiny appendages depending on their habitat.

Reproduction –
The male seahorse is equipped with a pouch on the ventral, or front-facing, side of the tail. When mating, the female seahorse deposits up to 1,500 eggs in the male’s pouch. The male carries the eggs for 9 to 45 days until the seahorses emerge fully developed, but very small. Once the young are released into the water, the male’s role is done and he offers no further care and often mates again within hours or days during the breeding season.

Before breeding, seahorses may court for several days. Scientists believe the courtship behavior synchronizes the animals’ movements and reproductive states so the male can receive the eggs when the female is ready to deposit them. During this time, they may change color, swim side by side holding tails or grip the same strand of sea grass with their tails, and wheel around in unison in what is known as a “predawn dance”. They eventually engage in a “true courtship dance” lasting about 8 hours, during which the male pumps water through the egg pouch on his trunk which expands and opens to display its emptiness. When the female’s eggs reach maturity, she and her mate let go of any anchors and drift upward snout-to-snout, out of the seagrass, often spiraling as they rise. They interact for about 6 minutes, reminiscent of courtship. The female then swims away until the next morning, and the male returns to sucking up food through his snout. The female inserts her ovipositor into the male’s brood pouch and deposits dozens to thousands of eggs. As the female releases her eggs, her body slims while his swells. Both animals then sink back into the seagrass and she swims away.

Feeding Habits – 
Seahorses feed on small crustaceans floating in the water or crawling on the bottom. With excellent camouflage and patience, seahorses ambush prey that floats within striking range. Mysida shrimp and other small crustaceans are favorites, but some seahorses have been observed eating other kinds of invertebrates and even larva fish. In a study of seahorses, the distinctive head morphology was found to give it a hydrodynamic advantage that creates minimal interference while approaching an evasive prey. Therefore, the seahorse has the ability to come within a very close range of copepods, on which they prey. After successfully closing in on the prey without alerting it, the sea horse gives an upward thrust rapidly rotates the head aided by large tendons that store and release elastic energy, to bring its long snout close to the prey.This step is crucial for prey capture as suction only works with the mouth at a close range. This two phase prey capture mechanism is termed pivot-feeding.

While feeding, they produce a distinctive click each time a food item is ingested. The same clicks are heard with social interactions

Threats of existence –.

Because data is lacking on the sizes of the various seahorse populations, as well as other issues including how many seahorses are dying each year, how many are being born, and the number used for souvenirs, there is insufficient information to assess their risk of extinction, and the risk of losing more seahorses remains a concern. Some species, such as the Paradoxical Seahorse, H. Paradoxus may already be extinct. Coral reefs and seagrass beds are deteriorating, reducing viable habitats for seahorses.

All Discovered Species, as of 2012 –

54 recognized species in this genus are:

H. kuda, known as the “common seahorse”
H. subelongatus, known as the “West Australian seahorse”
H. whitei, known as “White’s seahorse”

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