There are currently over 50 different species of seahorses. They’re part of the Kingdom
Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Actinopterygii, Order Syngnathiformes, Family
Syngnathidae, Genus Hippocampus. The particular species found at the Idaho Aquarium is known as Kuda. Hippocampus is an Ancient Greek word; Hippo means “horse,” campus means
“sea monster.” The colors of an H.Kuda range anywhere from black to pale yellow, changing due to diet, stress, mood, or other factors. Their bone structure consists of a series of plates, covered with a thin layer of skin. While they don’t have scales, they’re considered fish.
Seahorses are found all over the world in both tropical and temperate waters, including such places as Asia, Taiwan, China, Japan and many other countries. They aren’t very good swimmers, preferring to rest in one area for sometimes days at a time. They compensate for this by changing colors, which allows them to blend into the background. Favorite habitats include coral reefs, sea grasses and mangrove forests. Seahorses use their prehensile tails to grab onto seaweed and corals. They tend to live in fairly shallow, warm waters, and are able to blend in with the background if they remain still. Their dorsal fin is what propels them forward. Pectoral fins on their sides help them steer. Adults swim upright, whereas juveniles tend to swim horizontally. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) website indicates “H. kuda is listed as Vulnerable (VU A4cd) based on inferred declines of at least 30% caused by targeted catch, incidental capture, and habitat degradation. While there is little information on changes in numbers of the species, there is indirect evidence to suggest that declines have taken place and are continuing.” Population data is sparse. In addition to the declines listed by IUCN, seahorses are also subjected to use in Asian medicines, cooking and souvenirs. The IUCN website goes on to say that, “The Australian populations of this species were moved under the Australian Wildlife Protection Act in 1998, so export permits are now required.
The permits are only granted for approved management plans or captive bred animals. Such management was transferred under the new Environment Protection and Biodiversity
Conservation Act in 2001. Many states also place their own controls on the capture and/or trade of syngnathid fishes. All seahorses are listed on Schedule I of India’s Wildlife (Protection) Act,
1972, banning their capture and trade. In Singapore, H. kuda is recognized as being threatened by habitat destruction and harvesting for medicinal use and the aquarium trade and harvest is not allowed except by permit. They are listed as vulnerable in the National Red Data Books in
Singapore and Viet Nam. In France, it is illegal to import seahorses under the name H. kuda.”
Seahorses are estimated to live about one to five years in the wild. They are monogamous, with many mating for life. The male initiates mating by filling up his pouch with water, which is located on his chest. The mating ritual includes a daily “dance,” where the male and female wrap their tails around one another. The female deposits her eggs into