Seahorses are one of our many favorite critters to spot while on a dive, and it’s always amazing seeing all the different species, colors, and sizes. These little dudes are some of the most interesting fish in the seas, as well as very popular with aquarium lovers.
So here are our top facts about seahorses…
1. Seahorses are masters of camouflage.
Their colors change automatically to blend in with their surroundings. They have pigment sacks in their skin, with 3 main colors, that help them change color based on their surroundings, mood, or mating attitude. As babies, the seahorse is almost see-through, and then gets its color once established on a reef or habitat. Sort of like ghost pipefish, most will live on the same reef their whole life, blending in perfectly.
2. Seahorse eyes work independently.
This works well in the wild where they have to hide from predators by holding motionless, holding onto their coral with their tail, and watching for food with one eye and danger with the other.
3. Seahorses are horrible swimmers.
Seahorses mostly resort to catching passing sediment to move around. To catch the tiny sediment, much like many fish, their jaws swiftly open, creating a vacuum suction at the end of their long snouts, sucking in the food rapidly. Frogfish do the same, where they unhinge their jaw and open it rapidly, causing a vacuum effect, while simultaneously lunging forward. The speed is blinding fast.
4. Even though they are fish, seahorses do not have scales.
Instead, seahorses have hard, rough skin, with each species having different identifying patterns.
5. Male seahorses carry the babies.
The female inserts the eggs into the male’s pouch, during a swirling mating dance that can last hours. The eggs hatch inside the male, then he gives live birth to tiny babies. In the wild the babies are carried away in the currents to drift until they land on their own reef. Most don’t survive, that’s why so many are born each time.
6. The male pregnancy allows females to reproduce eggs faster, making sure more babies are born.
A single female can be responsible for many thousands of births, but….
7. Seahorses are monogamous.
Yep, they mate for life as a couple. It has even been observed that when one dies, their mate does not look for a new mate. Since the female can start producing eggs right away, she sometimes gets impatient with the male who is still pregnant from the last batch!
8. Seahorses surprisingly have few predators.
Because they are so boney and undesirable. Crabs, however, don’t mind. Their main predator, which has put them at risk, is of course humans. Chinese kill about 150 million of them per year, to use in medicines and things they still believe works today, but actually has no medicinal properties or benefit. They are also taken from the wild, over 1 million per year, and dried out and sold along with seashells as souvenirs.
9. A major threat to seahorses, is the aquarium trade/hobby.
Over 1 million seahorses are taken from the wild each year to be sold to aquarium dealers, and it is estimated that 1 in 1000 survive that process longer than 6 weeks.
10. There are currently 54 known species of seahorse.
The smallest seahorse is the pygmy seahorse, and the biggest seahorse is the big-belly seahorse. It is hard to identify species, as each one can change color and even texture and look different that others. More species are still being discovered.
11. Seahorses have no stomach.
So they must eat constantly because the food moves so fast through their digestive tract.
12. The Latin name for seahorse, Hippocampus, means “Horse Caterpillar”?
13. Females are in charge.
They are the ones that initiate mating, and in the wild, they have a territory of about 100 sq meters, while males only have a territory of about 0.5 sq meters.
14. 3 years is old for a Seahorse!
Although only 1 in 1000 seahorses survive to adulthood, a seahorse can live up to 3 years in the wild.
15. Seahorses are considered one of the slowest critters in the ocean.
With an average top swim speed of 5 feet per hour. Although, the babies do drift in currents, so I guess they get some better speeds.
16. Just like a fingerprint, or spots on a whale shark, seahorses each have unique traits that can identify an individual.
Its the “coral net”, or a small crown on their head, that is different in shape and color for each.
17. Seahorses can be found in most coastal countries.
Especially in warmer climates around the equator, such as Bali or the Maldives. But they are also seen in colder places like in UK. Of course, water pollution has cut the numbers way down, in some areas more than others. In places like Bali, many conservationists are trying to study and protect underwater life, while places like China are the worst offenders.
If you know more cool facts about seahorses, let us know in the comments below!