Do you know how seahorse gets its name? Well, despite being a fish, seahorse belongs to the genus Hippocampus. Hippocampus comes from an Ancient Greek term, “hippokampos” where hippo refers to a horse, and kampos refer to the sea monster.
Is seahorse a sea monster?
No, seahorses are small marine fish that live in water, have a swim bladder, breathe through gills, and have a brood pouch. Although, they don’t have any snake-like tail or caudal fins. Instead, they have a snout that points down and a neck similar to that of a horse. That’s where its name comes from. There are a total of about 45 known species, and this number may increase or decrease.
Seahorse Habitat & Size
Seahorses are said to be a marine fish that is why they protect the habitat they live in. Here is a list of seahorse habitat where they can be easily found –
- Coral reefs,
- Seaweeds, and
Seahorses can also be found in the water that’s not too cold or too deep and salty waters ocean water that meets with the fresh river water. Size of the seahorse varies from 1.5cm (smaller than a strawberry) to 35.5cm (bigger than a shoe). Their heights measured from bony heads to their curly tails. Of course, this variation in height depends upon their type.
Now, we know about seahorse habitat let’s know about what do seahorse eat.
What Do Seahorse Eat & How Much They Eat?
Seahorses don’t have teeth or stomach. Then how do they eat? Instead of using their mouth, they suck all of their food like Vaccum using their tube for a snout. That is the reason they eat small creatures that fit their mouth. They eat mainly baby fish, shrimps, and other little sea creatures. They swim slowly and do not chase their prey. Instead, they do sneak-attacks to catch a meal. Because of these sneak attacks, they are also known as ambush predators. As they do not have the stomach to store and digest their food, they have to eat regularly to survive. Every day, they eat about a tenth to a quarter of their total body weight. These all about what do seahorse eat.
Seahorse reproduction is one of the rarest phenomena, especially in the animal kingdom. Instead of female seahorse, male seahorse becomes pregnant. The male seahorse carries eggs released by a female in their brood pouch. Female seahorse releases up to 1500 eggs at once which male carries for about 9-45 days. It carries the eggs in its pouch until the fully developed baby seahorse emerges. Young seahorse then leaves into the water, and the male again gets ready for mating in hours. Above is a summary of what happens, but the seahorse reproduction process is divided into four steps –
Let’s understand seahorse reproduction in brief:
Seahorses generally court for days before breeding. According to scientists, courtship is a process animals do to synchronize the reproductive states and their movements. Once synchronization completes, the male is ready to receive the eggs in its brood pouch, if the female is ready. In this stage, they tend to swim together with their tails attached, change color, dance (also known as predawn dance), and even grip the same seagrass strand. Female inserts her ovipositor (tube-like organ for laying eggs) into a seahorse male pouch and releases the eggs. As she releases her eggs, her body becomes slim, while the male’s body swells.
While fertilization, the male’s pouch opens up for about 6 seconds and egg deposition takes place. Seawater also enters the pouch along with the eggs that begin the motility, and sperm activation. This protected type of fertilization decreases the sperm competition among the seahorse males.
In this stage, seahorse male supplies the prolactin (required for milk-production in mammals). The pouch provides a controlled environment, incubator, and oxygen. The eggs then hatch inside the pouch, and salinity water prepares the life for newborns. This process lasts about two-to-four weeks depending upon the species.
Newborn seahorse is called fry. Male release an average of 100-1000 for significant species. They typically gave birth to newborns at night and can be ready for mating in the morning again. Just like other fish species, seahorses don’t nurture their newborns after birth.
Some Interesting Seahorse Facts
Here are some fantastic facts about seahorses –
- They don’t have a stomach or teeth.
- Some seahorse male can deliver a baby in the morning and be pregnant again by night.
- Eating food regularly is their necessity to stay alive as food passes through their digestive system very quickly.
- Seahorses usually swim in pairs with their tails attached.
- Seahorses are eaten by penguins, big tuna fish, rays, sea turtles, and crabs.
- At the time of mating, the female seahorse leaves up to 50 eggs into the male’s brood pouch.
- Seahorses involve in an eight-hour courtship dance. This dance includes wheeling around, changing colours, and swimming side by side by attaching their tails together.
- There are over 40 species that are known to human knowledge.
- A male seahorse carries the eggs until the baby fully formed. Once done, a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 1500 newborns are released into the water.
- One of the unique seahorse facts is that seahorse male carries the unborn babies, which is a phenomenon unique, especially in the animal kingdom.
What threatens seahorses?
Humans threaten seahorses. They are used for pseudo-medicines in Korea, Japan, and China. In these areas, they are believed to treat severe diseases such as sexual dysfunctions, pain, and asthma. It’s illegal to keep them as a pet, and they even die quickly as they are habitual of living in the wild. Seahorses also got caught by fisheries while catching fish when baiting shrimp. One of the significant reasons for seahorse dying when brought out of their seahorse habitat is that they live in areas like the coral reeves, mangroves, and seagrass beds.
These areas are highly sensitive to climate change, pollution, and other human disturbances.
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