Sea Horse Male Pregnancypipefish

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"The sea horse is a member of the pipefish family. Swimming upright-and looking a little like a chesspiece-it is a graceful inhabitant of the warmer seas." Wildlife Fact-File When our kids saw a seahorse while swimming in the Atlantic, they were so very excited since it looked so different from the other fish. They tried to catch it but they couldn't. While we swam in many oceans many times, we only saw a seahorse two other times. Their conservation is not known. Shrimp trawlers catch thousands around the full moon when sea horses congregate to breed. Shrimp trawls also damage the shallow seabed that forms the sea horse's home. It's a tough world in the ocean for the sea horse!

They are found in Indo-Aurstralia; the Atlantic coasts of Europe, Africa, and North America as well as in the Pacific coast of North America.

It's size is only an inch for the dwarf pygmy sea horse but up to 14 inches for the Eastern Pacific sea horse. They mate year round in tropical seas. In cooler waters in spring and summer they also mate. However, there has to be a full moon. Perhaps the romance of a full moon may partially originate from when sea horses mate. It is social. Their diet is planktonic crustacea, tiny fish, and other marine life. The related species are pipefish and shrimp fish.

The features of a sea horse are its swivel eyes camouflage, and fin. Photos illustrate how the sea horse's name came about. If you look at the front view it looks like a little horse, especially the face. In a side view if you look at the head and neck, it certainly reminds one of a horse. The long head is covered with spikes which one is reminded of the horse's hair.

The Wildlife Fact File states, "Swivel eyes let the sea horse watch prey without moving. The sea horse uses a clever camouflage technique to deceive predators. It simply adopts the color of surrounding weeds. Sea horses vary widely in size. The smallest, one inch long. It lives in the Gulf of Mexico and the largest, at 14 inches is the Eastern Pacific sea horse. The sea horse uses its dorsal fin beating 35 times a second to hover in the water."

At one time the sea horse was thought to be a mythological creature. Many people want them in their aquariums so it is in demand. It was in aquariums our kids first saw them and were so amazed by their form and movement. They asked all kinds of questions we could not answer. It is very difficult to keep a sea horse alive outside its natural environment since it needs a high intake of food to survive.

Several photos illustrate the form of the sea horse. It is tall and lean except in the stomach. It looks pregnant all the time. It has a long tail and a long head. Crabs are the few predators which eat sea horses since they are too bony.

Breeding is most unusual with a sea horse since it is the male which has the pregnancy. This allowes the female to produce more eggs quickly without nurturing the last batch. Female sea horses compete with each other for male mating partners.

How does the male become pregnant? The female releases her eggs into a pouch on the male's abdomen. The eggs attach themselves to the spongy pouch wall. The male fertilizes them and nourishes them with a special fluid secretion. The gestation period is 14-28 days. The number of young can be as much as 50. The babies are perfect miniatures of the parents. By two months they have grown to two inches.

Where are they found? Sea horses are usualy found in warm, shallow water among seagrass beds. Plankton is the microscopic marine life they feed on. This is found in deep, fast-running channels. Their tails are prehensile which makes them especially adapted for grasping. They wrap their long tails around nearby vegetation to avoid being swept away by the current.

Plankton and other small fish are what the sea horses constantly eat. Another unique feature about the sea horse is that it can use each eye independently from the other. Because of this ability, it allows it to search for prey without moving its body. When they come close, the sea horse can snap it up from up to an inch and a half away. Illustrations show how the sea horse can avoid most predators. Its coloration acts as camouflage in all its surroundings. Within seconds it can change from gray or black to vivid yellow or purple. It can grip onto a plant stems with its prehensile tail.

"Sea horses avoid predators, by mimicking the colors of underwater plants. The are 35 species living along the coasts of Australia, Africa, Europe, and North Averica. They range in size from the tiny pygmy variety to the giant Eastern Pacific sea horse." Wildlife Fact-File

Next time you're swimming where sea horses are supposed to be and there is a full moon, perhaps you might be so very lucky to see one but maybe not since they are busy mating!

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