Today in honor of Father’s Day I am featuring the seahorse. Why? well did you know that the seahorse has a brood pouch and carries about 1500 eggs around until they hatch? It is the only animal where the father is pregnant and delivers the young. The female seahorse deposits up to 1,500 eggs in the male’s pouch when mating. Pappa seahorse will carry these eggs around for about 2-6 weeks until they are hatched and grown at which point the little seahorses are born live and released into the water. The father pumps them out of his body with muscle contractions. It can take up to two days to deliver all of them. YIKES!
There are approx 50 different types of seahorses. Seahorses have a long, horse-like head (hence their name) and a curled tail. Seahorses range in size from under a centimeter long (Pygmy Seahorses) to about 1 foot (30 cm) long. They are said to have the head of a horse, a kangaroo pouch for birth, a monkey tail, hard outside skeleton of an insect and the independent moving eyes like a chameleon. (Larouse, 1975).
You will generally find them in seaweed or algae beds because they are slow swimmers but they also inhabit coral reefs and mangroves. You will find the seahorse pretty much from the 45 degree latitude south to 45 degree latitude north lines. They are not covered in scales but are covered with little bony plates for protection wrapped in thin skin. Certain species have little spiky twig like things sticking out from bodies which help to camouflage them. The seahorse also changes color by expanding and contracting the cells in their skin. You may see them green, black, bright orange or even red. The seahorses us camouflage to hide themselves from predators which makes them hard to spot. I have not seen one yet in person while diving but have been told Vero Beach is a good place to spot them offshore in the seagrass beds. This is on my bucket list so I definately have to slow down and spot the seahorses. I was not aware that they had such an amazing ability to hide themselves.
They have unique tails which it can wrap around seaweed to anchor the seahorse, where its upright body looks rather like a part of the plant. These prehensile tails which are similar to that of a monkeys’ and can grab onto anything by a reflex action.
Seahorses have a dorsal fin that moves them forwards. On their sides they have pectoral fins, which help them steer. The seahorses use their tails to hold onto the seaweed to stay in place because they are terrible swimmers. During a storm, seahorses can die of exhaustion if they can not find an anchor to wrap their tail around.
The seahorses main diet is brine shrimp, plankton and tiny juvie fish. Seahorses have no teeth and swallow their food whole. They suck the food through their long horse like snout. It is always feeding. While feeding they produce a distinctive click each time a food item is ingested.