Is it a lizard? Is it a dragon?
Is it a horse? No, believe it or not this beautifully bizarre creature
is a fish! Seahorses are found in tropical and temperate waters across
the world, including Asia, the Caribbean, South America, Africa and
Australia. There are between 35-54 species or more; many believe there
are subspecies that have yet to be charted. These strange fishes have
been in our oceans since the first dinosaurs walked on land!
Seahorses prefer to live in weedy beds and or coral reefs. During the
winter they move into deeper water to avoid harsh weather. They are
very shy and are capable of changing their colors to match their surroundings.
Seahorses are very unusual because they have an exo-skeleton, meaning
their skeleton is on the outside of the body rather than the inside!
They have long tubular mouths with which they such up their meals of
shrimp and crustaceans like vacuum cleaners. They are not very good
swimmers, preferring to simply hang onto grass, rocks or coral with
their tails. Seahorses have amazing eyesight, and both of their eyes
are independent. This means that a seahorse can look in front and behind
it at the same time!
The most famous bizarre fact about seahorse is that they are one of
the only creatures in the world in which the male gives birth! Seahorses
mate for life. During mating the female places the eggs into a pouch
the male has on his belly. The male will then fertilize the eggs and
carry them to term. When they hatch, between 50 and 150 seahorse fry
will be born. In larger species, as many as 1500 will hatch!
Seahorses are in terrible trouble. They are victims of traditional Chinese
medi-cal practices. It is believed by many that seahorses will provide
aphrodisiacs, aid kidney regulation, cure asthma, help children during
growth spurts and boost the human sex drive. Seahorses contain high
levels of collagen, which Chinese women use as a substitute for Botox.
It is important to understand that ALL of these medical applications
of seahorses have no basis in science! Yet, as many as 150 million seahorses
are taken from the ocean every year under the guise that they are viable
medical supplements. An additional one million seahorses are captured
every year for the aquarium trade. Another million or more are taken
for the curio trade, where they are brutally hung in the sunlight until
they dry out. They are then sold as tourist baubles. Please, do not
ever buy a seahorse that was taken from the ocean, whether it is dead
or alive! Doing so only encourages an unsustainable trade that may push
seahorses to extinction.
Fortunately there is still
time to preserve these amazing creatures. Check out these awesome organizations
dedicated to protecting seahorses!
Save Our Seahorses-Dedicated
to rallying support for seahorses.
The Seahorse Trust-A
small but passionate British organization dedicated to re-searching
and preserving seahorses.
Sea Life Trust, Seahorse
Page-An organization that works to protect many marine animals, including
organization that advocates for seahorses as major factors in the web
of ocean life.