Unusual Fish

There are three main groups of fish. The sea horse, breathing through gills, belongs in the family Syngnathidae along with Pipefish. There are approximately 35 sea horse species around the world residing in coastal regions among sea grasses and corals. These fish propel themselves through the water with a dorsal fin using pectoral fins to steer. However, these fins and gills are seemingly the only characteristics they share with other fish.

The seahorse swims upright and has a long tube like snout held at a right angle to its body. These features make it appear to be a small underwater horse. In addition, rather than having a tail fin the sea horse has instead a long, prehensile tail.

The Seahorse Body

The seahorses unusual and agile tail allows it to hold onto various seaweed and underwater plants where it hides looking very much like the plants it uses for cover.

Not only does its upright position help it to blend in, but the seahorse is able to camouflage itself with color appearing in many colors from white, to ebony, greens, and bright oranges and reds. These color changes occur when the sea horse expands or contracts tiny pigment cells, called chromatophores, in its skin.

Rather than being covered with scales the seahorse has bony plates. These plates help to protect it and serve as ribs for the seahorse which has no rib bones. On these plates, some species of seahorses develop small branch or twig like protrusions. These protrusions are called dermal cirri and are part of the camouflage of some seahorses, helping them to look more like the plants in which they live

Seahorse Food

Through the long tube like snout seahorses are constantly feeding. They use the tube to suck in plankton, brine shrimp, tiny crustaceans, and baby fish. The seahorse eats almost continually consuming only live food.

Seahorse Reproduction

Most seahorses select a mate for life. Even after losing a partner seahorses will not select a new mate for a prolonged period of time. Also the new pair generally produces less offspring than the original mates.

During mating the female seahorse lays up to 200 eggs in a front pouch on the male seahorse. She does so by inserting her egg tube, or ovipositor, into the pouch and dropping the eggs. Inside the male’s pouch the eggs are fertilized and a system of support veins grow around the eggs to provide nutrition. Two to six weeks later the eggs are fully developed and the baby seahorses are ready to be born.

During the birthing process the male assists the young in leaving his pouch by muscle contractions which squeeze the pouch pushing the newly born seahorses into the ocean. Most seahorses tend to deliver their young in groups although some are born individually. The whole birth process can last up to 2 days, leaving the male seemingly weak with fatigue.

Dangers for the Seahorse

In the water seahorse have some natural predators. These creatures include crabs, rays, skates, and tuna. In addition storms can tear them from their holding place to be cast ashore or die of exhaustion from swimming with no place for their tail to hold.

Out of the water man is also a threat to the seahorse’s survival. Not only does man threaten the seahorse habitat with pollution and trawling, but humans hunt this creature for a variety of reasons.

Seahorses are used in many traditional cultures including Chinese medicine and cooking. They are also hunted as souvenirs, appearing in glass domes, on key chains, or in a variety of other crafts or devices. And hobbyists with aquariums often purchase seahorses, only to discover that they are difficult to keep alive particularly since they require a constant live food source and are prone to disease.

Facts about Seahorses

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