Top 10 Facts about Seahorses

These strange little marine creatures are fascinating to watch, especially their seeming inability to swim or propel themselves efficiently with their dorsal fins, much like boxfish.

Seahorses are tiny creatures that pack a big punch when it comes to charisma. In no particular order, here are 10 of our favorite facts about these miniature ocean dwellers.

  1. They rank among the slowest fish in the ocean. The dwarf seahorse is the slowest, with a top speed of five feet (1.5 m) per hour.
  2. Seahorse mating starts with a courting process wherein the male seahorse “dances” and squirts water from his pouch to show the female that it’s empty. This can go on for a few days before mating takes place.
  3. It’s the male seahorse that carries the eggs to term. During mating, the female injects the eggs into the male’s pouch, where he fertilizes them.
  4. Seahorses can change color; they do so either as camouflage or as a sign of stress. So if one changes color while you’re observing it, then it’s time to back off.
  5. They use their prehensile tails to support themselves by wrapping around coral or seaweed.
  6. The genus name for seahorses is Hippocampus, which comes from the ancient Greek hippos, meaning “horse” and kampos, meaning “sea monster.” There are around 50 species of seahorses, though as individual animals vary so much in appearance it can be difficult to identify their subspecies.
  7. Seahorses use camouflage and patience to ambush prey, such as small crustaceans, as it happens into range. Every time they ingest an item of food they make a clicking sound.
  8. Baby seahorses are known as fry and while growing can eat up to 3,000 items of food a day. By adulthood this number drops to around 50.
  9. Seahorses have good vision and can move their eyes independently of each other, like a chameleon. They can simultaneously look in front and behind, which is helpful for catching prey.
  10. Humans post the biggest threat to seahorses. They’re killed for use in Chinese traditional medicine, for souvenirs, or by shrimp trawlers. They’re also popular for the pet trade. Humans kill around 150 million of these animals a year.