Seahorses may be small creatures, but they certainly have some fascinating qualities. Did you know that they are the only fish with tails that can grab objects? They use their prehensile tails to hold onto seagrass and even to each other. Not only that, but seahorses also have tiny fins and a swim bladder to help them maneuver through the water. They have big appetites, constantly eating to stay alive, and they even have a suit of armor-like plates to protect them from predators. These are just a few of the 12 interesting facts about seahorses that will leave you amazed at these unique creatures of the sea.
12 Interesting Facts About Seahorses
Although they have a unique and unusual curved shape with a head similar to a horse, seahorses are actually fish. Their long noses make them closely related to seadragons and pipefishes. Belonging to the genus Hippocampus, there are currently 47 seahorse species discovered, however, more may exist! Let’s learn about these fascinating sea creatures with 12 interesting facts.
1. They have prehensile tails
Seahorses are the only type of fish with tails that can grab objects, called prehensile tails. These tails are similar to monkey tails. However, seahorses use them to hold onto objects, such as seagrass, when they roost for the night. By hanging onto floating seagrass or seaweed, they can also travel further than they can normally swim. You can sometimes see mated pairs swimming together with their tails linked. They will also use their tails as weapons when they are fighting over territories or food.
2. They have tiny fins and a swim bladder
As previously mentioned, seahorses are fish and have characteristics of a fish, including fins on their back. Although hard to see these fins, they use them to propel themselves through the water and have pectoral fins near their heads to help them steer. Like other fish, they also have a swim bladder to help them stay buoyant in the water and gills for breathing.
3. Seahorses have big appetites
Seahorses are constantly eating plankton, plants, tiny fish, and brine shrimp. They have to do this because their digestive systems are very simple without a stomach, so it works very fast and food passes right through them. By continuously eating, they can stay alive. They can eat up to 3,000 brine shrimp in a day. These animals also don’t have any teeth, so they use their powerful snouts to suck their food in and swallow whole.
4. They have armor-like plates
Although they look delicate, seahorses actually have a strong suit of armor-like plates to protect them. Their bony exteriors make them tough for other fish to digest them. However, they do have predators in the ocean, especially crabs that will pinch them from the waters. Other predators include horn sharks, loggerhead sea turtles, skipjack tuna, and fairy penguins.
5. Seahorses can change colors
One of the few marine animals that can change colors, seahorses use this ability to help them blend into their environments for extra protection. They can also change their colors to express emotions or communicate, especially during mating rituals. For example, when they are signaling they are interested in a mate, they will brighten their colors.
6. Their eyes can move independently
To help protect them from predators, seahorses can camouflage and use their unique eyes. By moving their eyes independently, they can have one eye looking left and the other looking right, so they see a wider range.
7. They hold a world-record
The dwarf seahorse (Hippocampus zosterae) holds a Guinness World Record for being the world’s slowest fish. They can only swim 5 feet per hour. In general, seahorses are slow swimmers because of the shape of their bodies and the fact they lack a fin on their tails. They also swim upright and are great at maneuvering around their environment since they can easily swim forward, backward, upwards, or downwards.
8. Their breeding ritual is unique
The seahorses will greet each other daily with an elaborate dance routine during their breeding ritual. This dance involves swimming side-by-side and mirroring each other’s movements. It allows them to check in with each other and determine when they are ready to mate. Another interesting fact is the males will sometimes tail wrestle to fight for a female’s attention.
9. Male seahorses carry the eggs until they hatch
When breeding time comes around, the female seahorse will place her unfertilized eggs in a pouch on the male’s body. The male will then release his sperm to fertilize the eggs. It is also his responsibility to carry the eggs until the babies are ready to hatch. The newly hatched seahorses are fully formed and released from the male’s pouch. Seahorses can have over 1,000’s of babies from one mating.
10. Males can eat their babies
Not only are seahorses small creatures already vulnerable to various predators, but it’s common for males to eat their young after they are born. Although 1000’s of seahorses hatch, only a few usually survive to have a future exploring the oceans. The babies are also independent immediately after birth.
11. They have a version of fingerprints
Every common seahorse has a crown on its head, also called a coral net, that is unique as human fingerprints. Every crown varies in both size and design among seahorses.
12. Seahorses are listed as a vulnerable species
One of the main reasons seahorses are listed as vulnerable is their use in Asian medicine. Countries like Japan, China, and Korea believe seahorses can treat various ailments, including pain, sexual dysfunction, and asthma. High fishing demands also occur because they are popular souvenirs and pets in aquariums. Additionally, seahorses live in habitats that are sensitive to pollution, such as mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs. Since seahorses are slow swimmers and sparsely populated, they are vulnerable to any habitat disturbances. They are also monogamous and faithful to one mate, so if a partner disappears, they are slow to mate again, if ever. In fact, some species, such as the paradoxical seahorse (Hippocampus paradoxus), could already be critically endangered or extinct.
Seahorses are truly fascinating creatures with their unique characteristics and behaviors. They have adapted to their environment in extraordinary ways, from their prehensile tails to their ability to change colors. However, their vulnerability as a species highlights the importance of conservation efforts to protect these captivating animals. Let’s continue to learn about and appreciate the wonders of seahorses while working towards their preservation.