After years of debate, scientists have come to the conclusion that the seahorse is indeed a fish! As a member of the class Actinopterygii (bony fish) and the family Syngnathidae, the peculiar looking horse-like miniature creature breaths using gills, has a swim bladder to regulate its buoyancy and a dorsal fin to propel itself. Truly a favorite in the family aquarium, this unique member of the genus Hippocampus is quite intriguing.
Over 54 species of seahorses exist and can be found throughout the world in shallow tropical and temperate waters. Habitats include coral reefs, sea grasses and mangrove forests. Quite territorial, some males stay within one square meter of their habitat. The seahorse, although classified as a fish, is surprisingly a poor swimmer! Their habitat is of utmost importance to their survival. Often they are found resting with their prehensile tails wound around a stationary object such as sea grass. As these poor swimmers do not fare well in rough waters their shallow and still habitats are crucial for their survival.
Seahorses are quite small, ranging in size from 0.6 inches to 14 inches. Named for their equine appearance, they have a flexible well defined neck and coronet on their head. Although they are considered bony fish, the seahorse has no scales, but rather thin skin stretched over a series of bony plates .These plates are arranged in rings throughout their body. Their anatomy allows them to swim upright.
The slowest moving fish in the world (the dwarf seahorse reaches a maximum speed of 5 feet per hour!) the seahorse can easily die of exhaustion if the seas are rough. The seahorse propels itself using a small dorsal fin on its back. Two smaller pectoral fins located on the back of the head are used for steering. With no caudal fin, they are slow, but they are maneuverable. A seahorse can swim up, down, forward and backward.
With no stomach the seahorse must eat constantly to survive. Using their long snouts to suck up food, they graze continuously eating up to 3000 brine shrimp per day! With excellent camouflage and patience, seahorses, anchored to coral or sea grass with their prehensile tail, ambush the small crustaceans that float within striking range. While feeding they make a distinctive clicking sound each time a piece of food is ingested.
Unlike most other fish, the seahorse is monogamous, mating with the same partner throughout life. Even more unique is the fact that the seahorse is the only animal species on earth in which the male delivers the offspring!
After a nearly 8 hour courtship dance, in which the seahorses entwine their tails and even change color, the female inserts her eggs through an oviduct into the male’s brood pouch on its ventral side. The male wiggles to get the eggs in position and then fertilizes the eggs internally. Once all eggs are inserted, the male then waits out the…