Animal of the Month
March 2017

Name: Seahorse

Classification: Fish
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Syngnathiformes
Family: Syngnathidae
Sub-Family: Hippocampinae
Genus: Hippocampus
Number of Species: 35-54

Size: 0.6-14 inches
Weight: N/A

Characteristics: S-shaped body, bearing spiny or bumpy features. Long flexible tail to latch onto objects, long snout, one fin on the back.
Color(s): Varies between species. Many species can also change color depending on the location and courtship conditions.
Behavior: Shy, mates for life.
Preferred Habitat: Shallow waters with weedy areas
Range: Tropical and temperate waters throughout the world
Diet: Plankton and small crustaceans
Lifespan: About 1-5 years in the wild.

Status: Varies from Vulnerable to Endangered!

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 seahorses.

Project Seahorse-An organization that advocates for seahorses as major factors in the web of ocean life.


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