Seahorses Are Among the Most Fascinating Fishes


Seahorses are truly unique, and not just because of their unusual equine shape. Unlike most other fish, they are monogamous and mate for life. Rarer still,  they are among the only animal species on Earth in which the male bears the unborn young.

Found in shallow tropical and temperate waters throughout the world, these upright-swimming relatives of the pipefish can range in size from 0.6 inches (1.5 centimeters) to 14 inches (35 centimeters) long.

With their slow, gentle demeanors and curlicue tails, seahorses might seem like the most harmless, unassuming creatures under the sea. But they’re actually one of the most deadly. And definitely one of the weirdest. The mysterious marine creatures have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Here are some facts that will forever change the way you think of seahorses.

Seahorses are fish. After much debate over the years, scientists finally decided that seahorses are fish. They breathe using gills, have a swim bladder to control their buoyancy, and are classified in the Class Actinopterygii, the bony fish, which also includes larger fish such as cod and tuna. Seahorses have interlocking plates on the outside of their body, and this covers a spine made of bone. While they have no tail fins, they have 4 other fins – one at the base of the tail, one under the belly and one behind each cheek.

 Seahorses are bad swimmers. Although they are fish, seahorses are not great swimmers. They’re the slowest of all fish due to the tiny fin on the middle of their back. (It’s their only method of propulsion.)In fact, they Seahorses prefer to rest in one area, sometimes holding on to the same coral or seaweed for days. They beat their fins very quickly, up to 50 times a second, but they do not move quickly.   They have been known to die of exhaustion if seas get too rough.They are very manueverable, however – and able to move up, down, forward or backward.

They are the “assassins of the sea.”

Seahorse heads are shaped to let them move through the water undetected. The quietly sneaky hunting technique gives them an impressive 90 percent successful predatory kill rate.

Seahorses live around the world. Seahorses are found in temperate and tropical waters throughout the world. Favorite seahorse habitats are coral reefs, seagrasses, and mangrove forests. Seahorses use their prehensile tail to hang out on objects such as seaweed and branching corals. Despite their tendency to live in fairly shallow waters, seahorses are difficult to see in the wild – they are very still and blend in very well with their surroundings.

There are 53 species of seahorses. According to the World Register of Marine Species, there are 53 species of seahorses. They range in size from under 1 inch, to 14 inches long. They are categorized in the Family Syngnathidae, which includes pipefish and seadragons.

Seahorses eat nearly constantly. Seahorses feed on plankton and small crustaceans. They do not have a stomach, so food passes through their bodies very quickly, and they need to eat nearly constantly.

Seahorses can range from 0.6 inches to 14 inches in height. Pygmy seahorses, like the one below, measure roughly 2 centimeters.

Seahorses may have strong pair bonds… or they may not. Many seahorses are monogamous, at least during a single breeding season.  A myth perpetuates that seahorses mate for life, but this doesn’t seem to be true. Unlike many other fish species, though, seahorses have a complex courtship ritual and may form a bond that lasts during the entire breeding season.  The courtship involving a “dance” where they entwine their tails, and may change colors. So, although it may not be a long-lasting match, it can still look pretty enchanting.

Male seahorses give birth. Unlike any other species, the males become pregnant.  Females insert her eggs through an oviduct into the male’s brood pouch. The male wiggles to get the eggs into position. Once all the eggs are inserted, the male goes to a nearby coral or seaweed and grabs on with his tail to wait out gestation, which may last several weeks.  When it’s time to give birth, he’ll contort his body in contractions, until the young are born, sometimes over a period of minutes or hours.  Baby seahorseslook just like miniature versions of their parents.

Seahorses are experts at camouflage. Some seahorses, like the common pygmy seahorse, have a shape, size and color that allows them to blend in perfectly with their coral habitat. Others, such as the thorny seahorse, change color to blend in with their surroundings.

Seahorse courtship begins with a daily “dance,” during which the male and female gracefully swim together.

This courtship happens every morning for several days — the final dance can last up to eight hours — until the couple finally does the deed.

 A baby seahorse is called a “fry.”

And a group of seahorses is called a herd.

Seahorses have no teeth and no stomach.

They use their tube-shaped noses to suck up small animals, and they have to eat almost constantly since food passes through their digestive systems so quickly.

 Seahorses “growl” when they’re stressed.

They also “click” when courting one another.

Seahorses are vulnerable to extinction. Seahorses are threatened by harvesting (for use in aquariums or Asian medicine), habitat destruction, and pollution. Because they are hard to find in the wild, population sizes may not be well-known for many species.  Some ways you can help seahorses are not purchasing souvenir seahorses, not using seahorses in your aquarium, support seahorse conservation programs, and avoid polluting water by not using chemicals on your lawn and by using eco-friendly household cleaners.

Source:, Huffington Post – Landess Kearns,

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March 23, 2017 |

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