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Seahorses are very interesting and attractive sea creatures, both small and large. The seahorse, scientifically called the Hypocampus Hypocampus, belongs to the category of fish, being ultimately also a species of fish, although it has a different form than its swimming relatives. Many of the features presented here are also found in many seahorse species.
Where can you find seahorses?
The seahorse lives strictly in marine habitats at depths between 0.5 and 30 meters between algae and coral reefs.
It lives around corals, among the algae on the bottom of the sea, on which it clings with its tail.
How to recognize a seahorse?
The fact that it looks like a horse eventually gave the name of this fish species.
The seahorse’s body is thin, measuring 5 – 20 cm, has an S-shaped form, and is covered with bone plaques. On its back, it has wings that help it swim, and on its head and back, the seahorse has more or less sharp tubers.
Seahorses can be found in a variety of colors from red to gold, red-brown, or black-brown. They breathe like fish, through their gills, and their main characteristics are similar to those of fish. In fact, what distinguishes them is ultimately just the form.
The scales of the seahorse were transformed into about 50 square bone plaques, covering the body in semi-rigid armor. The eyes can move independently or converge for stereoscopic vision. The most notable difference between the male and the female is that the male is equipped with a pocket similar to a marsupial placed on the ventral side. This pocket plays a role in reproduction.
These animals have a very small mouth, their stature is quite vertical, and they move slowly, even when they have to go after food.
Reproduction: The male gives birth
This is the most amazing species of marine life because the male brings into the world the “new offspring” of the family. The female lays about 1500 eggs in the bag that the male has for this purpose. In about 4-6 weeks, the seahorse male brings the offspring into the world. The birth can take up to two days. The offspring are only one inch long, but they are very similar to their parents. Although they are still vulnerable, seahorse babies can survive on their own even in extreme conditions.
Behavior: Seahorses are monogamous
Sea horses swim slowly propelled by the rapid movements of dorsal swimmers or pectoral flippers. When moving, the sea horse takes about 3 minutes to walk a meter.
It is surprising that seahorses practice monogamy, which means that pairs will be formed for life. The partners use a special dance every morning to greet each other. It is intended to confirm the connection between the two partners. If one of them dies, the other will not rush to find a partner.
These fish species have an adorable appearance, but they are also very good masters of disguise. In addition, they can hide, or rather camouflage, because they have that specific color, which resembles that of stones, giving them the advantage when hiding. Also, their shape is very helpful in this regard, eventually having the role of a true shield of protection.
Sea horses need living food, being carnivores. They cannot move fast enough to chase. Instead, they use their elongated muzzle to absorb the small crustaceans that pass through their range. They have a very high accuracy in their range. Young seahorses will feed for up to 10 hours each day, consuming up to 3,600 baby shrimps.
Sea horses also eat many herbs from the sea, and when they feed, they cling to what they want to consume with their tail, which is spiral-shaped. They do not have the habit of running for food as fish can be seen doing.
Economic importance for people
Worldwide there is a huge demand for sea horses for traditional Chinese medicine, aquariums, or tourism. Sea horses are considered a strong aphrodisiac and are used to treat a range of diseases such as asthma, impotence, infertility, and throat infections.
Every year countless specimens disappear due to the destruction of coral reefs, algae, or mangroves. More than 20 million specimens are caught annually, which has led to a decrease to about half in the population only in the last 5 years. Experts suggest that these species are at risk.
The only fish that swim upright are seahorses.
They are good swim-eaters and spend their time hiding in shallow sea-bed vegetation, feeding on plants, small shellfish, small shrimp, and fish larvae.
The seahorse can also change color depending on the environment. This feature helps the fish defend itself from enemies.
Their life span is 4 years, and for this reason, seahorses are monogamous and mate for life. These creatures remain faithful to one partner, and if one of them dies, the other dies of loneliness after a while. Pairs have multiple pregnancies in a single mating season and ultimately have greater reproductive success. The relationships of monogamous seahorses are strengthened by daily greetings.
Pairs of seahorses greet each other every morning with a unique dance that sometimes involves changing color. They walk around and take a few minutes together before separating for the rest of the day. They then salute themselves as a way to confirm that the other partner is still alive, strengthening their bond and synchronizing their reproductive cycles.
Males are the ones who carry developing embryos into a pouch. During the mating season, the female lays her eggs in the bag and the male fertilizes them. After about 2 to 6 weeks of development, the offspring are ready to swim and explore the world of the oceans and seas.
Sea horses are not just tropical creatures. They can be found in colder waters, such as New Zealand, Argentina, Europe, Eastern Canada, and the UK. Unlike most fish that use their tails for swimming, sea horses use their tails, like monkeys do, to hold on to objects in their environment, such as corals or seagrass.
The smallest seahorse, Satomi’s seahorse (Hippocampus satomiae), which was described for the first time in 2008, is only half an inch long. It lives in Brunei waters, Indonesia and Malaysia.