The Seahorse – A Few Facts About Its Habitat, Physical Traits, Diet And Reproduction
The seahorse is a type of marine fish that belongs to the Hippocampus genus of the family Syngnathidae. The name translated from Greek means “horse sea monster”, which related to its horse-like appearance.
There are 54 described species of sea horses, and they live mainly in shallow tropical waters and some temperate waters around the world. They usually prefer sheltered habitats with abundant coral reefs, mangroves and sea grass beds. While some species may form colonies, others stay near their habitat, with males staying closer to their main living area – contrary to females, which may venture over 100 times the distance.
Seahorse species range in size from 1.5 centimeters to 35 cm or more. Their jaws are fused together, just as their family name implies, forming an elongated tube. Their body shape resembles an equine form. Despite the fact that they are bony fish, their bodies are covered in skin and not in the typical scales. Their skin stretches throughout their bodies, covering the bony plates which are arranged in rings in their bodies. The number of rings is particular to each species of sea horses.
Contrary to most other relatives, sea horses swim in the upright position with the help of their dorsal fins, while steering with their pectoral fins. Most of them are poor swimmers, with a type the dwarf sea horse being the slowest swimmer in the world – it has a top speed of just 1.5 meters per hour. Another particularity not seen in other fish is that the sea horse has a flexible neck which is well defined.
A typical seahorse diet consists mostly of small crustaceans. Sea horses rely on their camouflage to remain unseen and wait until potential prey gets into striking range. They suck small copepods, other small crustaceans and even larval fish with their long snouts. Each time they ingest a prey, they make a specific clicking sound which can be also heard when they interact socially.
When mating, a sea horse female will deposit up to 1,500 eggs on the brood pouch of the male, which is located on the ventral part of the tail. A characteristic of these fish species is that the male will look after the eggs until they hatch, which is normally between 9 and 45 days. After they hatch, the small, fully developed seahorses become independent. The male seahorse will then seek to mate again within hours after the eggs hatch.