Hippocampus reidi (Long-snouted Seahorse)

After many years of debate over the past years, scientists have decided that the seahorse falls under the category fish.

They have a swim bladder to control buoyancy and have gills which they use to breathe through. Their interlocking plates, found on the outside of the body covers a spine which is made of bone. Seahorses have four fins, one at the base of the tail, one under the belly and one sits behind each cheek, they do not have tail fins.

They prefer to spend the day resting, sometimes staying attached to coral or seaweed for several days. They are classed as fish, but are very poor swimmers indeed. Movement consists of going up and down, forward or backward, but they do not move quickly. They can beat their fins extremely quickly, up to 50 times a second.

Around the world there are 53 know species of Seahorses, ranging from under 1 inch, to 14 inches long. They are difficult to spot and blend in well with their surroundings, using their prehensile tail to hang on to objects and keep very still.

They are constant eaters, feeding on plankton and small crustaceans. The constant urge to eat comes from the fact that they do not have a stomach, food passes straight through the body, quickly. They do not have teeth, instead they suck in food and swallow it whole. According to the seahorse trust, an adult seahorse will eat 30-50 times daily, baby seahorses consume 3,000 pieces of food daily.

 

Many seahorses are monogamous, at least during a single breeding season. They perform a courtship dance, which leads to entwine their tails and change colour. It was presumed that seahorses mate for life, but this seems to be proving untrue.

Male seahorses become pregnant, they carry the eggs which have been inserted by the female into his brood pouch. Gestation takes several weeks. When giving birth the young will be released over a period of minutes or hours into the water, the babies are miniature versions of their parents.

Seahorses are sadly on the decline. They are still been used in traditional medicine in Asia, some are kept in Aquariums which are harvested from the wild. Destruction to habitat, pollution of the ocean waters and worse still, they are being exploited to sell as souvenirs.

Help to protect these venerable species by not buying them or using them in aquariums. Whilst diving; do not harass them, pick them up or cause them undue stress. They only have a short life span of 1-4 years, so we must take care of them.