The seahorse is a well-known inhabitant of the water depths. It is remembered for its unusual body shape, which makes one wonder: is the seahorse a fish or an animal? Research has shown that the seahorse is a highly modified needlefish. Like needle fish, seahorses have an elongated body shape, a peculiar structure of the oral cavity, and a long movable tail. There are not so many remains of seahorses – the earliest date from the Pliocene, and the separation of needlefish and seahorses occurred in the Oligocene.
What does a seahorse look like?
The unusual shape of the skate’s body resembles a chess piece of a knight. Numerous long spines and ribbon-like leathery outgrowths located on the body of the ridge make it invisible among the algae and hidden from predators. The seahorse has small fins, its eyes rotate independently of each other, and its tail is twisted into a spiral. He can also change the color of his scales.The seahorse
looks small, its size depends on the species and varies from 2 to 35 cm (1 to 14 in). In the water, the seahorse swims vertically, unlike other fish. This is due to the fact that the seahorse’s swim bladder consists of the abdominal and head parts. The head bladder is larger than the abdominal bladder, which allows the seahorse to maintain an upright position while swimming.
The seahorse has a sharp, elongated muzzle with pronounced large eyes. The seahorse has no mouth in the classical sense – it is a tube similar in physiology to the mouths of anteaters. It draws in water through a tube to feed and breathe. The color can be very diverse, it also depends on the habitat of the seahorse. The most common species have a gray chitinous cover with rare small black dots. There are types of bright colors: yellow, red, green. Often the bright color is accompanied by matching fins resembling algae leaves.
The tail of the seahorse is interesting. It is twisted into a spiral and unbend only during intense swimming. With this tail, seahorses can grab onto objects during strong currents. The abdominal cavity of seahorses is also noteworthy. The fact is that the reproductive organs are located there. In females, this is the ovipositor, and in males, it is the abdominal bursa, which looks like a hole in the
middle of the abdomen.
Where does the seahorse live?
Seahorses prefer tropical and subtropical waters, and the water temperature must be stable. Most often they can be found off the coasts of Australia, Malaysia, the Philippine Islands, Thailand.
Most often they live in shallow waters, but there are species that live at depths. Seahorses are sedentary, hiding in algae and coral reefs. They grab onto various objects with their tail and from time to time throw themselves from stem to stem. The shape and body color of seahorses is great for camouflage.
Some seahorses can change color to suit their new habitat. They make long journeys in a peculiar way – they cling to a fish with their tail and unhook from it when the fish gets into algae or reefs.
What does the seahorse eat?
Due to the peculiar physiology of the mouth, seahorses can only eat very small foods. It draws in water like a pipette, and plankton and other small food gets into the seahorse’s mouth along with the flow of water.
Large seahorses can eat crustaceans, shrimps, small fish, tadpoles, eggs of other fish. It is difficult to call the seahorse an active predator. Small species of seahorses feed continuously by drawing in water. Large seahorses resort to camouflage hunting: they cling to algae and coral reefs with their tails, waiting for suitable prey nearby.
Because of their slowness, seahorses do not know how to chase their prey. During the day, small species of seahorses eat up to 3 thousand crustaceans as part of plankton. They eat continuously at any time of the day – the fact is that the seahorse does not have a stomach, so they have to eat constantly.
Character and lifestyle
Seahorses are sedentary. The maximum speed they can reach is up to 150 meters per hour, but they move very rarely. Seahorses are non-aggressive fish that never attack other fish. They live in small flocks of 10 to 50 individuals and have no hierarchy or structure. An individual from one herd can easily live in another. Therefore, despite the group habitat, seahorses are independent individuals. Interestingly, seahorses can form long-term monogamous pairs. Sometimes such a union lasts the whole life of seahorses. A pair of seahorses – male and female, are formed after the first successful breeding of offspring. In the future, the pair breeds almost continuously, if there are no factors preventing this.
Wild seahorses do not adapt well to home conditions very badly, most often they become depressed and die. But seahorses born in aquariums calmly survive at home.
Social structure and reproduction
Seahorses breed in a rather unusual way, because the male bears the fry. Monogamous pairs are not uncommon in seahorses. The mating season of seahorses is an amazing sight. A couple preparing for the wedding tie their tails and dance in the water. In the dance, the skates are pressed
against each other, after which the male opens a special pocket in the abdomen, into which the female throws eggs. The male fertilizes them and bears offspring within a month. The number of fertilized eggs largely depends on the size of the male – a large male can fit more eggs into his pouch. Small tropical seahorse species produce up to 60 eggs, large species more than five hundred.
After four weeks, the male begins to release fry from the bag – this process is similar to “shooting”: the bag expands, and many fry quickly fly away to freedom. For this, the male swims into an open area, where the current is strongest – so the fry will disperse over a vast territory. Newborn babies should take care of themselves. In nature, the seahorse lives for about 4-5 years.
Natural enemies of the seahorse
The seahorse is a master of disguise and a secret lifestyle. Due to this, the seahorse has very few enemies who would purposefully hunt this fish.
But sometimes they can become prey to the following predators:
– large shrimps feed on small seahorses, calves and caviar;
– crabs are enemies of seahorses both under water and on land. Sometimes seahorses cannot hold on to the seaweed during a storm, so they are carried ashore, where they become prey for crabs;
– clown fish live in corals and anemones, where seahorses are often found;
– tuna can simply eat everything in its path, and seahorses accidentally enter its diet.
Population and status of the species
Now the seahorse is found less and less and is on the verge of extinction due to the rapid decline in numbers. There are many reasons for the disappearance of the seahorse. The main one is the destruction by man of both the fish itself and its habitats. Exotic appearance and bizarre body shape have become the reason that people began to catch and make souvenirs from them.
Another reason that contributes to the decline in the seahorse population is that they are a delicacy. Food lovers appreciate the taste of these fish, especially the eyes and liver of seahorses. In a restaurant, the cost of one serving of such a dish costs $ 800.
The seahorse is an amazing and unusual animal. They are distinguished by a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes, being one of the most striking species of fish. It remains to be hoped that the measures for the protection of seahorses will bear fruit, and these fish will continue to thrive
in the vastness of the world’s oceans.