Don’t let my unusual shape fool you—I’m actually a fish! We’re most closely related to pipefishes and seadragons (I bet you can see the resemblance in our long noses). Unlike most other fish, we swim upright. We are generally pretty small, and range from about the size of a thumbnail to more than a foot long. The genus Hippocampus includes 47 species of seahorses, and almost 1/3 of those were discovered within the last decade—there are probably more that haven’t been discovered!
It can be difficult to spot us in the wild. In addition to our generally small size, we are experts in camouflage, and many of us have similar patterns to our habitat, allowing us to seamlessly blend into coral or seagrass. This helps us both hide from predators and sneak up on prey. Unfortunately, we can’t always hide, and one of the largest threats to our population is illegal capture by humans for use in traditional medicines and home .
Did You Know?
We have prehensile tails, also known as tails that can grab objects. Although it’s similar to monkey tails, they evolved independently— our scientific family are the only type of fishes who have them! This allows us to hold onto seagrass and other objects, especially when we “roost” at night. Attaching to floating seaweed or seagrass (or unfortunately even marine debris) means we can travel much further distances than we could normally swim on our own.
We have a pretty unique breeding ritual. Couples will greet each other every day with an intricate dance that involves mirroring each other’s movements, swimming side-by-side, and more. This is a way to check in with our partner and make sure they’re OK and ready to mate! When it comes time to breed, females place eggs in a small pouch on the male’s body. That’s right—the male seahorse takes the lead when it comes to the labor of childbirth. There are multiple breeding events throughout the season.
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