Grab your snorkels and join us as we get up close to these colourful critters…
Find out all about one of the ocean’s most fascinating fish with our super-cool seahorse facts!
Fast seahorse facts
IUCN status: Data Deficient or Vulnerable, depending on species
Lifespan (in wild): 3 years
Body size: 2-35cm
Top speed: 150cm per hour
Seahorses are tiny fish that are named for the shape of their head, which looks like the head of….yup, you guessed it -a tiny horse. There are around 36 seahorse species, which are found in tropical and temperate coastal waters where they swim upright among seaweed and other plants.
Seahorses’ bodies are covered in tiny, spiny plates, all the way from their head down to their curled, flexible tail. The tail can grasp objects, which comes in handy when these cool critters want to anchor themselves to vegetation. To move forward through the water, seahorses use their dorsal fin (back fin). To move up and down, they adjust the volume of air in a tiny pocket inside their body, called a ‘swim bladder’.
The seahorse life-cycle is one of the most fascinating nature has to offer! A female seahorse lays dozens, sometimes hundreds, of eggs in a pouch on the male seahorse’s abdomen. Called a ‘brood pouch’, it’s a bit like the pouch of a kangaroo, used for carrying young. Depending on the seahorse species, the eggs remain in the brood pouch for up to 45 days, until the eggs are ready to hatch. The new baby seahorses, each about the size of an M&M, find other baby seahorses and float together in small groups, clinging to each other using their tails. Cute, eh? Unlike kangaroos, though, baby seahorses do not return to the pouch. These guys have it tough, and must find food and hide from predators as soon as they’re born!
A master of camouflage, these fab fish can be incredibly difficult to spot. Camouflage not only helps the seahorse avoid predators, such as crabs and other fish, it helps it to be a predator, too. Feeding on small crustaceans, seahorses are super-skilled ambush predators. Rather than chasing their food, they wait, unnoticed, for prey to pass by. They then suck their unsuspecting victim though their tube-like mouth, before swallowing it whole. Gulp!
Two species of seahorse can be found in coastal waters off the UK and Ireland – the Spiny Seahorse and the Short Snouted Seahorse. Have you ever been lucky enough to see one?