Sea Horse Facts
Educate yourself with this collection of fascinating facts about seahorses
The Latin name for seahorse is Hippocampus which means “Horse Caterpillar”
Seahorses eat small crustacea such as Mysis Shrimp. An adult eats 30-50 times a day. Seahorse fry (baby seahorses) eat a staggering 3000 pieces of food per day.
What is a seahorse?
Seahorses are fish. They live in water, breath through gills and have a swim bladder. However they do not have caudal fins and have a long snake-like tail. They also have a neck and a snout that points down.
There are two species around British Coastline, the Spiny Seahorse (Hippocampus Guttulatus) and the Short Snouted Seahorse (Hippocampus Hippocampus).
Both British Seahorses can be found from the Shetland Isles MAINLY down the west coast of the UK (and all around Ireland) and along the south coast of England; we also have sightings of Seahorses on the east coast and a few years ago they were found in the North Sea and across the Channel in France
Seahorses have long thin snouts enabling them to probe into nooks and crannies for food. When they find food they suck it up through their snouts like a vacuum cleaner. Their snouts can expand if their prey Is larger than the snout. They are not able to chew and have to disintegrate the food as they eat it.
Seahorses have excellent eyesight and their eyes are able to work independently on either side of their head. This means they can look forwards and backwards at the same time! This is particularly useful as they hunt for food by sight.
It was always thought that Seahorses pair for life but research by The Seahorse trust has shown that pair bonding is just for a few months or a season at a time. They meet first thing in the morning to reinforce their pair bonding with an elaborate courtship display. The female meets the male in his territory and as they approach each other, they change colour. The male circles around the female and the pair often spiral around an object. This display can last for up to an hour. Once over the female goes back to her territory.
Females have a territory of about 100 sq metres and males have a territory of about 0.5 sq metres. Their territories overlap.
The male is the only creature where the male has a true reversed pregnancy. The female transfers her eggs to the male which he self-fertilises in his pouch. The number of eggs can vary from 50-150 for smaller species to 1500 for larger species.
They receive everything they need in the pouch from oxygen to food. Gestation time varies from 14 days to 4 weeks. Giving birth can be a long process with contractions lasting up to 12 hours.
Baby seahorses are known as fry, when they are born they are on their own. They spend the first two to three weeks of their lives drifting along in the plankton layer of the ocean. Less than one in a thousand will survive long enough to become an adult due to predators.
Seahorses have a prehensile tail. This allows them to grip onto eel grass and other weeds and prevents them from being washed away by strong currents and waves.
Seahorses can change colour very quickly and match any surroundings in which it finds itself. They have even been known to turn bright red to match floating debris.
Both males and females also change colour during their courtship display
Unlike most other fish, seahorses have an exo-skeleton. Their bodies are made up of hard, external, bony plates that are fused together with a fleshy covering. They do not have scales.
Seahorses are poor swimmers. They rely on their dorsal fin beating at 30-70 times per second to propel it along. Pectoral fins either side of the head help with stability and steering.
Seahorses live in shallow weedy areas especially eel grass beds. In winter they move into deeper waters to escape the rough weather.
Seahorses are under threat worldwide for three main reasons: The Traditional Chinese Medicine Trade takes in excess of up to 150 million seahorses a year from the wild and these are used for all types of medicine.The Curio Trade takes approximately one million seahorses from the wild. Along with shells and starfish; they are deliberately taken from the sea and left to die in the boiling sun.
They are then sold as souvenirs, a sad and sorrowful reminder of once beautiful creatures.The pet trade takes an estimated one million seahorses from the wild and It is thought that less than 1,000 survive more than six weeks.
There are about 54 species of seahorses worldwide, and possibly as many sub-species. It is often difficult for scientists to identify seahorses because individuals of the same species can vary greatly in appearance. New species continue to be found.