A relative of the pipefish family, seahorses will intertwine their prehensile tails and float together for hours. When they mate, they engage in a ritualistic dance that lasts for days. These tiny ballerinas of the sea are mesmerizing to watch. The scientific name of the seahorse is Hippocampus from the Greek word “hippo” meaning “horse” because the head of the seahorse has an equine appearance. Campus also comes from the Greek word “kampos” meaning “sea monster”. They are found in the tropical waters of the world, and their life span is from 1 to 4 years.
These beautiful creatures of the sea are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, but must be kept in a saltwater aquarium and are difficult to keep alive. Seahorses range from .6 to 14 inches in size. Unlike their fish relatives, they swim upright by fluttering their dorsal fin 35 times per second. Because they are poor swimmers, they can die of exhaustion if caught in stormy seas. The pectoral fin at the back of their heads is used for steering.
Unlike most fish, they are monogamous and mate for life. They are the only animal species in which the males impregnate themselves after the female lay their eggs inside the male’s frontal brood pouch. The male then incubates the fertilized eggs for 24 days before spewing them into its watery world after experiencing a series of strong contractions. A typical male can bear up to 2,000 young at a time. However, only .5% of the “fry” will survive to adulthood. A male seahorse can bear young in the morning and become pregnant again by nightfall. It’s interesting to note that seahorses do not have scales, but they do have a strong bony structure. This makes them unappetizing to other fish because they are difficult to digest. Their eyes move independently of each other, just as a chameleon’s eyes do.
Seahorses are carnivorous, and they feed mainly on brine shrimp. However, after encircling their tails around coral or underwater vegetation in order to remain stationary, they will use their long snouts to suck in plankton and small crustaceans. They have few predators in the sea except for crabs. Nevertheless, the 30 species of seahorses have become in danger of extinction due to pollution, Asian harvesting for medicinal purposes, and habitat depletion.