Species: 46 currently recognized
Common Names: Seahorse
Seahorses swim upright using their dorsal fins. They are not great swimmers, and are usually fairly slow moving. They are often seen with their tail wrapped around something (such as a piece of coral or seaweed).
Seahorses use their camouflage to wait until an animal, such as a shrimp or other small crustacean, floats by, then they strike at their prey and suction it into their snout. Due to their simple digestive system, they must eat almost constantly.
Seahorses have a unique method of breeding. Unlike most species, in which the young are gestated by the female, seahorse females insert their eggs into a “brood pouch” on the underside of the male. The male then carries them until they hatch, with some species releasing up to 1000 young in a single brood.
Seahorses are largely monogamous, meaning two partners will stay together during the mating season, and some species stay with the same mate for life.
Seahorses have a unique body shape among fish, with an upright swimming posture, curling tails, bent necks, and long snouts that give them an appearance similar to a horse.
They lack scales, and instead their skin is stretched around bony plates arranged through the body as a kind of “outer skeleton”.
Seahorses can be many different colors, and are good at camouflaging. They can measure between about half an inch in length to over a foot long.
Seahorse fossils are scarce, but it is believed that fossil evidence shows seahorses evolving from pipefish around 23 million years ago. Pipefish resemble seahorses, but their bodies are straight and elongated, instead of bent and upright.