A spiny seahorse (<i>Hippocampus histrix</i>) photographed at Newport Aquarium in Kentucky
A spiny seahorse (Hippocampus histrix) photographed at Newport Aquarium in Kentucky
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

Seahorses

Common Name:
Seahorses
Scientific Name:
Hippocampus
Type:
Fish
Diet:
Carnivore
Group Name:
Herd
Average Life Span In The Wild:
1 to 5 years
Size:
0.6 to 14 inches

Seahorses are truly unique, and not just because of their unusual equine shape. Unlike most other fish, they are monogamous and mate for life. Rarer still, they are among the only animal species on Earth in which the male bears the unborn young.

Habitat and Size

Found in shallow tropical and temperate waters throughout the world, these upright-swimming relatives of the pipefish can range in size from 0.6 inches to 14 inches long.

Males and Reproduction

Male seahorses are equipped with a brood pouch on their ventral, or front-facing, side. When mating, the female deposits her eggs into his pouch, and the male fertilizes them internally. He carries the eggs in his pouch until they hatch, then releases fully formed, miniature seahorses into the water.

Swimming and Movement

Because of their body shape, seahorses are rather inept swimmers and can easily die of exhaustion when caught in storm-roiled seas. They propel themselves by using a small fin on their back that flutters up to 35 times per second. Even smaller pectoral fins located near the back of the head are used for steering.

They anchor themselves with their prehensile tails to sea grasses and corals, using their elongated snouts to suck in plankton and small crustaceans that drift by. Voracious eaters, they graze continually and can consume 3,000 or more brine shrimp per day.

Conservation

Population data for most of the world’s more than 30 seahorse species is sparse. However, worldwide coastal habitat depletion, pollution, and rampant harvesting, mainly for use in Asian traditional medicine, have made several species vulnerable to extinction.

This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
Photograph by Danny Bergeron, National Geographic Your Shot

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