Online – a strange appearance helps them survive: seahorses

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Latin name of the seahorse “Hippocampus” comes from mythology and is the name of a mythical creature – half horse, half fish – on which the sea god Poseidon rode.

They can only be found in the sea because they need salt water to live. A special feature of seahorses is their appearance. Seahorses are actually fish, although they do not look like fish at all: their fins are almost completely reduced, their laterally compressed body is protected by a hard, ribbed skin shell, and they have a toothless tubular mouth.

Her German name comes from the shape of her head, which closely resembles a horse’s head. The curved neck is also similar to that of horses. Their posture is also unusual for fish: they swim vertically in the water and do not swim horizontally like other fish. Only with a small, almost completely reduced dorsal fin can they slowly move forward, the two pectoral fins, which are also heavily reduced, serve as the rudders. Their caudal fin also does not resemble that of other fish, but has been transformed into a prehensile tail that they can use to cling to plants or corals.

Seahorses vary greatly in size. There are 30 to 35 different species of seahorse. For some, researchers are not sure if they are separate species, as the species seahorses may look different depending on the region. The short and long snouted seahorse lives in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Pacific Seahorse lives in the Pacific. Very closely related to sea horses are small and large sea dragons. Both species are found only in cooler waters off the southern coast of Australia. They have various flaky outgrowths that make them look like a piece of seaweed and are perfectly camouflaged among the algae and seagrass meadows.

The smallest has only been discovered recently: it is a Tasmanian seahorse, which is only 1.5 centimeters long. The two-centimeter dwarf seahorse is also one of the small species. The largest representatives are the gastropod sea horse, which measures 25 centimeters, and the Pacific sea horse, which is 20 centimeters. Species that live in Europe are in the middle: the sea horse with a short mouth is 7 to 13 centimeters long, and with a long snout from 8.5 to 18 centimeters.

The color of the seahorse can be very different: from yellow to orange and purple to brown, black and white. Additionally, they can be patterned. They also have the ability to change the color: if you combine different colored animals together, they will adapt to each other and to their surroundings.

Seahorses live in the warm seas of the world. Seahorses with a short and long snout are found in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and eastern Atlantic. They are very rarely found even in the North Sea. Seahorses thrive in shallow, calm coastal waters. Some species love dense seagrass meadows, others can also be found on rocky, rocky shores or among algae. Seahorses especially like being in seaweed because they can stick to their tails. They feed on small organisms that they suck in with lightning speed through their tubular mouths. It is also unusual for the seahorse to have males pregnant and not females. The male incubates up to 200 eggs in a brood bag.

After about ten to twelve days, the male retreats into the seagrass and gives birth to small seahorses. From then on, the little ones are alone.

Young seahorses are eaten by predatory fish, especially in the first weeks of life: probably only one in a thousand juveniles survive.

The strange appearance of seahorses helps them survive: hardly any predatory fish recognize strange animals that often hover among plants as prey. A hard bone shell also spoils the appetite of most fish. Seahorse victims, on the other hand, often notice too late that they are approaching a predator.

The decline in their populations is mainly due to the massive destruction of their habitats, underwater seagrass forests and intensive fishing in the waters, meaning they often end up in the nets as by-catch. In addition, especially in China and Southeast Asia, there is a belief that crushed seahorses have healing properties.

Seahorses live in pairs and jointly occupy the territory. The animals stay together for life, and if one partner dies, the other usually doesn’t live much longer. There is a welcoming ritual every morning to strengthen the bond between the two partners. The female usually goes to the male and asks him to dance. His tail catches the part of the plant the male is holding and they both curl around the plant’s stem. Finally, they catch their tails and swim across their territory together. They then separate and each spends the day independently looking for food.

Seahorses live in captivity for up to four years. In nature, they can live a maximum of six years.


Hippo sea horse

It all started in the ocean of Oceania long, long ago, somewhere between the shores of New Guinea and Australia.

Hippo, the little seahorse, was bored, she and her friend Susi were drifting off the coast of Australia. “Everything I do bores me. I just swim from coral to coral. Oh, it would be nice to see something other than just Australian beaches. Hippo said dissatisfied to Susi’s needles. “So let’s go on a trip!” Pipefish Susi suggested. Hippo thought for a moment, then they began to swim. They swam day and night until they finally arrived off the coast of New Guinea. “I like this place. I’m staying,” Hippo said cheerfully, sucking on some prawns. Susi’s needle shook her head and thought, “Well, I’d like to go further because I came from the Chinese seas.”

“Then keep going, and when we meet again, tell me how it is on Chinese seas, maybe I will come and visit you too!” Pipefish Susi agreed and set off for China.

Hippo enjoyed life off the coast of New Guinea. She met a lovable seahorse named Campus, whom she immediately married. Campus and Hippo had a bunch of children, which of course Campus hatched, because that’s what seahorses do. They had so many toddlers that they almost ran out of names when the toddlers happily surfaced to the surface of the water. Campus and Hippo swore eternal loyalty, and Hippo often told about her friend Sue Pipefish, who now lived somewhere in the Sea of ​​China.
“Maybe we’ll visit them someday,” suggested Campus. Hippo was delighted, so they left with their bag and luggage, followed by a huge crowd of children. During the trip, the children grew up to be big seahorses and some people stayed everywhere because they liked it so much. But Hippo and Campus were moving relentlessly towards China, where Susi’s Spire was already waiting impatiently for them. Even today, Susi, Hippo, and Campus pipe fish sail happily around the world, always looking for new adventures.


Seahorse Quiz

1. How many species of seahorse are there in the world?
a. 40 to 50 species
b. 90 to 110 species
c. Over 200 species

2. How fast can seahorses swim?
a. Maximum 1.5 km / h
b. Maximum 4 km / h
c. Up to 10 km / h

3. The seahorse has a curly prehensile tail. What is it for?
a. The seahorse uses it to defend itself against its enemies.
b. With its help, the seahorse takes the food.
c. The sea horse holds it. So it can’t drift away.

4. Who gives birth to seahorse babies?
a. woman
b. male
c. The female lays eggs in a rock cave. The young are born there.

5. Which of the following statements is true?
a. Seahorses can turn 180 degrees and swim upside down.
b. Seahorses shed their tails three times a year. A new prehensile tail then grows back.
c. Seahorses may change color to blend in with their surroundings.

6. What is the cool feature of seahorse eyes?
a. Seahorses see their surroundings only in black and white. Your eyes can’t see colors.
b. They can change eye color.
c. They can move their eyes by themselves.

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