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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

The Seahorse: 15 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Seahorse facts will leave every kid spellbound.

Do you know why the seahorse (Hippocampus) is one of the most striking animals found underwater? Well, this marine fish with a head and neck resembling a horse, an upright posture, a brood pouch like a kangaroo, a segmented bony armor, and a curved, prehensile tail, indeed stands out from the conventional imagery we have of a 'fish.'

Currently, with around 47 seahorse species found in the tropical and temperate waters across the world, these unique vertebrates (those with a vertebral column) of the animal kingdom are a treat to the eyes! Even though it has no apparent similarity with any other fish you know, they do have fins and breathe through gills, just like a usual fish. With an impressive courtship behavior and a carnivorous diet, these unique sea and ocean dwellers with their bright and perky colors are sure to draw every onlooker's attention. Continue reading if you want to know more about what makes the seahorses so unique and special.

You may also check out other engaging and fun animal facts on the leopard seal and sea snake.

Seahorse Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Seahorse?

A seahorse is a marine fish of the family Syngnathidae. Despite their unique look, seahorses are like any other fish in many aspects, such as having fins and breathing through gills.

What class of animal does a Seahorse belong to?

Seahorses belong to the class Actinopterygii, the other members of which are known as the ray-finned fishes. They belong to the same group as bony fishes such as tuna and cod.

How many Seahorses are there in the world?

There is no data on the exact number of seahorses extant in the wild. With around 47 species of seahorses, they come in many dazzling variants with various colors and sizes. Some of the most well-known species include the H. hippocampus (short-snouted seahorse), H. guttulatus (long-snouted seahorse), H. histrix (spiny seahorse), H. abdominalis (bigbelly seahorse), H. alatus (winged seahorse), and many more.

Where does a Seahorse live?

Primarily marine animals, seahorses are found in the shallow tropical and temperate saltwater bodies around the world, from about 45 degrees South to 45 degrees North latitudes. The parts of the oceans in which seahorses are found are neither too cold nor too deep. Seahorses also thrive in estuaries, mangrove forests, coral reefs, seagrass beds, and other shallow coastal zones.

What is a Seahorse's habitat?

The seahorses inhabit waters that provide them with food and shelter. Seahorses have a remarkable capacity to camouflage against their surroundings as a defense against predators and the seaweed offers the perfect backdrop for the seahorses' upright bodies to blend in. Even genomic and evolutionary studies point to the fact that seahorses originated in the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean that had expanding seaweed habitats. Presently, four species of seahorse are found in the Pacific Ocean from North America to South America and H. erectus is spread throughout the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to Uruguay. The dwarf seahorse (H. zosterae) is found in the Bahamas. Three species are found in the Mediterranean waters. Some species also inhabit the tropical western Pacific Ocean from Indonesia to Vanuatu and the waters off New Zealand and South Australia.

Who do Seahorses live with?

Seahorses are monogamous (have one mate for life). Pairs meet in the morning and engage in an intense display of courtship; this is a way to reinforce the bonding of the pair. The male and the female meet in the former's territory, and change color as they approach each other. The pairs often spiral around underwater objects or the male encircles the female. The courtship lasts for about an hour, after which the female seahorse returns to her territory. Baby seahorses usually float together in groups.

How long does a Seahorse live?

The average lifespan of a seahorse in the wild is around one to five years.

How do they reproduce?

Other than their equine appearance which makes the seahorses so unique is that the way they reproduce. In the case of these marine fish species, male seahorses give birth to the young. A brood pouch similar to that of a kangaroo is present on the male's abdomen; it is in this pouch that the males carry the fertilized eggs. After an elaborate courtship, the female seahorse deposits her eggs into the male's pouch; the females use an ovipositor (egg duct) to deposit her eggs. With variations among species, the eggs remain in the male's pouch for around 10 days to 6 weeks. During the time the eggs remain in the pouch, the male seahorse nurtures the developing babies. Several chemical reactions take place in the male's body that is favorable for the development of the babies. When it is time for hatching, the male contracts his body and releases the offspring, expelling an average of 100-1000 offspring at a time. Only a few survive to tell the tale. When the babies are born, they look like miniature versions of the adults. The baby seahorses do not get nurturance once they are born. Soon after giving birth, the males are ready for receiving a subsequent batch of eggs from their mate.

What is their conservation status?

Data regarding the population of several seahorse species is sparse and hence, no official conservation status can be assigned to most species. The extent of existing threats vary from species to species and around 350 or more species may be threatened at present. For instance, H. capensis (Cape seahorse) is endangered due to its limited habitat distribution in the estuaries of South Africa. The Hippocampus genus is listed in Appendix II of CITES.

Seahorse Fun Facts

What do Seahorses look like?

Seahorses are unique ocean and sea animals with a striking physical appearance. Unlike what any other fish looks like, seahorses have a distinctive trunk, a prehensile tail, a head with a long snout, and a bent neck. Despite being bony fish, seahorses do not have the typical scales. Rather, their body has a series of ring-like bony plates that looks like armor. The number of rings differs between species and the armor-like skin protects the seahorses from predators. Seahorses have a dorsal fin that helps them to propel themselves ahead in the water while they swim upright. Behind the eyes and on either side of the head are located pectoral fins that help the creatures to stir in water. The prehensile tail is curved and helps the seahorses to cling to stationary underwater objects. A caudal fin is absent in a seahorse. Seahorses may also have a crown-like spine on their head, known as a coronet.

Seahorses are one of the most beautiful marine creatures.

How do they communicate?

Research indicates that seahorses can growl quite a deep sound that cannot be easily detected by the human ear. These tiny fish growl as a response to stress, especially when they are captured. Studies have also revealed that seahorses make clicking sounds while feeding, and the sound gets louder during courting. Males usually click louder than the females but the sound is hushed enough to not alert any predators around.

How big is a Seahorse?

Regarding the size of the seahorse, seahorses range in size between 0.6-14 in (1.5-35.6 cm). They are almost half the size of an average squid.

How fast can a Seahorse move?

Seahorses are pretty much immobile and are poor swimmers, swimming way slower than most other fishes. The slowest moving of all seahorses is the dwarf seahorse that can reach a maximum swimming speed of 5 ft/hr (1.5 m/hr). Seahorses swim upright, maintaining a vertical position throughout. While swimming, seahorses use their soft-rayed dorsal fin to propel themselves ahead and the pectoral fins on the side of their head are used for maneuvering. Smaller pectoral fins on the back of the head help in steering. Further, the body shape of the seahorses makes them clumsy swimmers and they may often die due to exhaustion in a storm-roiled sea. The poor swimmers that these creatures are, they often rest by attaching themselves to floating seaweed or other aquatic objects like coral reefs.

How much does a Seahorse weigh?

The average weight of a seahorse is around 7 oz - 1 lb (198.4-0.5 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Male and female seahorses do not have distinct names.

What would you call a baby Seahorse?

Baby seahorses are called fry.

What do they eat?

The ability of seahorses to camouflage themselves makes these sea animals excellent ambush predators. When tiny organisms swim in the nearby water, seahorses capture them by rapid sucking through the mouth. They have a carnivorous diet and primarily eat small crustaceans, tiny fish (or their larvae), and other invertebrates in the sea. Since seahorses cannot swim well, they may attach themselves to stationary objects, while camouflaged, and eat food that comes floating by.

Are they dangerous?

Seahorses are harmless to humans but their camouflaging ability makes them stealthy killers of small aquatic creatures.

Would they make a good pet?

With proper care and diet, it can be quite rewarding to keep them as pets in the aquarium.

Did you know...

Since seahorses do not have eyelids, they sleep with their eyes 'open.'

Seahorses have a two-chambered heart, but no stomach and teeth.

Seahorses are not known to eat their babies intentionally but the young ones look similar to small crustaceans and may end up in the diet of the seahorse.

Seahorse pairs often 'dance' during courting and intertwine their tails during mating, forming the iconic 'seahorse heart.'

A group of seahorses is known as a herd.

Is the Seahorse endangered?

Due to scanty population data, seahorses have not been given any specific conservation status. However, some believed them to be endangered due to limited geographical distribution.

What does a Seahorse symbolize?

The ancient Romans and Greeks considered the seahorse to be a symbol of power and strength, an attribute of the sea god Neptune/Poseidon. To the ancient Europeans, these creatures were a symbol of good luck and charm and a carrier for the safe passage of deceased sailors to the underworld. In Chinese culture, the seahorse is considered to be a kind of sea dragon that signifies power and good luck. Traditional Chinese medicine believes the seahorse has healing properties.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including walleye fish, or snapping turtle.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our seahorse coloring pages.

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