Sea Horse - A well-known inhabitant of the water depths. It is remembered due to the unusual shape of the body, which makes one wonder: is the seahorse a fish or an animal? In fact, there is a definite answer to this question. Also, these creatures have many unusual secrets related to their characteristics of habitat, lifestyle and distribution.
Origin of view and description
Seahorses belong to the genus ray-finned fish from the order of the needle-shaped. Studies conducted on seahorses have shown that seahorses are a highly modified subspecies of fish needles. Like needle fish, seahorses have an elongated body shape, a peculiar structure of the oral cavity, and a long movable tail. There are not so many remains of seahorses - the earliest dates from the Pliocene, and the separation of needle fish and seahorses occurred in the Oligocene.
The reasons are not exactly established, but the following stand out:
- the formation of multiple shallow waters, where fish often swam as vertically as possible;
- the spread of numerous algae and the occurrence of a current. So the fish arose the need to develop the grasping functions of the tail.
There are bright varieties of seahorses that are not considered unanimous by all scientists.
One of the most colorful seahorses are:
- pipefish. In appearance it resembles a tiny seahorse with a very elongated thin body;
- spiny seahorse - the owner of strong long needles throughout the body;
- sea dragons, especially deciduous. They have a characteristic camouflage shape, as if completely covered with leaves and processes of algae;
- dwarf seahorse - the smallest representative of seahorses, whose dimensions barely exceed 2 cm;
- Black Seahorse is a species that does not have spikes.
Appearance and features
Photo: What does a seahorse look like?
The seahorse got its name not by chance - it resembles a chess horse in the shape of its body. The elongated curved body is clearly divided into the head, trunk and tail. The seahorse is completely covered with chitinous growths, which have a ribbed shape. This gives it a resemblance to algae. The growth of seahorses is different, depending on the species, it can reach 4 cm, or 25 cm. It differs from other fish in that it swims vertically, holding its tail below.
This is because the abdominal bladder is located in the abdominal and head parts, and the head bladder is larger than the abdominal one. Therefore, the head, as it were, "pops up" up. The fins of the seahorse are small, they perform the function of a kind of “rudder” - with their help it unfolds in the water and maneuvers. Although seahorses swim very slowly, relying on disguise. There is also a dorsal fin, which allows the seahorse to constantly maintain a vertical position.
Interesting fact: Seahorses can look different - sometimes their shape resembles algae, stones and other objects among which they are masked.
The seahorse has a sharp, elongated face with pronounced large eyes. In the classical sense, a seahorse does not have a mouth - it is a tube similar in physiology to the oral cavities of anteaters. He draws into himself water through a tube to eat and breathe. Color can be the most diverse, it also depends on the habitat of the seahorse. The most common species have a gray chitinous cover with rare small black dots. There are types of bright colors: yellow, red, green. Often a bright color is accompanied by corresponding fins resembling algae leaves.
Interesting is the tail of a seahorse. It is curved and unbends only with intensive swimming. With this tail, seahorses can cling to objects to hold during a strong current. The abdominal cavity of seahorses is also noteworthy. The fact is that there are reproductive organs. In females this is the ovipositor, and in males it is an abdominal bag that looks like a hole in the middle of the abdomen.
Where does the seahorse live?
Photo: Seahorse in the water
Seahorses prefer tropical and subtropical waters, and the temperature of the water must be stable.
Most often they can be found on the following coasts:
- Philippine Islands;
Most often they live in shallow water, but there are species that live in the depths. Seahorses lead a sedentary lifestyle, hiding in algae and coral reefs. They grab tails for various objects and make rare dashes from stem to stem. Due to the shape of the body and its color, seahorses are perfectly masked.
Some seahorses can change color for a new environment. So they disguise themselves from predators and more effectively obtain their own food. The seahorse makes long journeys in a peculiar way: it clings to some fish with its tail, and detaches from it when the fish enters algae or reefs.
Now you know where the seahorse is found. Let’s see what this animal eats.
What does a seahorse eat?
Thanks to the peculiar physiology of the mouth, seahorses can only eat very small feeds. He draws water into himself like a pipette, and along with a stream of water plankton and other small food fall into the mouth of a seahorse.
Large seahorses can retract:
- small fish;
- eggs of other fish.
It is difficult to call an active predator of a seahorse. Small species of seahorses feed continuously, drawing in water. Large seahorses resort to camouflage hunting: they cling their tails to algae and coral reefs, waiting for nearby prey to be found nearby.
Because of their slowness, seahorses do not know how to chase a victim. During the day, small species of seahorses eat up to 3 thousand, crustaceans as a part of plankton. They eat continuously for any time of the day - the fact is that the ridge does not have a digestive system, so you have to eat constantly.
Interesting fact: There are often cases when seahorses also eat larger fish; they are illegible in food - the main thing is that the prey fit into the mouth.
In captivity, seahorses feed on daphnia, shrimp and special dry food. The peculiarity of feeding at home is that the food must be fresh, and must be fed regularly, otherwise seahorses can get sick and die.
Features of character and lifestyle
Photo: Orange Seahorse
Seahorses lead a sedentary lifestyle. The maximum speed that they can develop is up to 150 meters per hour, but they travel extremely rarely, if necessary. Seahorses are non-aggressive fish that never attack other fish, even though they are predators. They live in small flocks from 10 to 50 individuals, have no hierarchy and structure. An individual from one flock can safely dwell in another flock.
Therefore, despite the group habitat, seahorses are independent individuals. Interestingly, seahorses can form long-term monogamous pairs. Sometimes such a union lasts the whole life of seahorses. A pair of seahorses - male and male, are formed after the first successful breeding of offspring. In the future, the pair is produced almost continuously, if there are no obstacles to this.
Seahorses are extremely susceptible to all kinds of stress. For example, if a seahorse loses its partner, it loses interest in breeding and may completely refuse food, due to which it dies within a day. Also a stress for them is trapping and relocation to aquariums. As a rule, caught seahorses must be adapted by qualified specialists - trapped individuals are not transplanted into aquariums for ordinary lovers.
Wild seahorses are extremely poorly accustomed to home conditions, most often become depressed and die. But seahorses born in aquariums calmly survive living at home.
Social structure and reproduction
Photo: Seahorse in the sea
Seahorses do not have a fixed mating season. The males, reaching puberty, begin to circle around the selected female, demonstrating their willingness to mate. During this period, the soft area of the male’s chest, not protected by chitin, darkens. The female does not respond to these dances, freezes on the spot and watches the male or several males at once.
Some large types of seahorses can inflate a bag on their chests. This ritual is repeated for several days until the female chooses a male for herself. Before mating, the selected male can “dance” all day until exhaustion. The female signals the male that she is ready to mate when she rises closer to the surface of the water. The male follows her, opening the bag. The ovipositor of the female expands, she introduces it into the opening of the bag and spawns directly into the bag of the male. He fertilizes her along the way.
The amount of fertilized caviar largely depends on the size of the male - a large male can fit more eggs in his bag. Small tropical species of seahorses produce up to 60 eggs, large species more than five hundred. Sometimes, stable pairs form in seahorses that do not decay throughout the life of two individuals. Then mating occurs without rituals - the female simply lays eggs in the bag of the male.
Four weeks later, the male begins to release fry from the bag — this process is similar to “shooting”: the bag expands and many fry quickly fly to freedom. To do this, the male swims out into the open territory, where the current is the strongest - so the fry will spread to a wide territory. The further fate of the little seahorses parents are not interested.
Natural enemies of a seahorse
Photo: Seahorse in Crimea
Seahorse is a master of disguise and a secret lifestyle. Due to this, the seahorse has very few enemies who would purposefully hunt this fish.
Sometimes seahorses become the food of the following creatures:
- large shrimp regale with small seahorses, cubs and caviar;
- crabs are the enemies of seahorses both underwater and on land. Sometimes seahorses cannot hold on to algae during a storm, which is why they are carried ashore, where they become prey for crabs;
- clown fish lives in corals and anemones, where seahorses are often found;
- tuna can simply eat everything in its path, and seahorses accidentally fall into its diet.
Interesting fact: Undigested seahorses were found in the stomachs of dolphins.
Seahorses are not capable of self-defense, they do not know how to flee. Even the most “speedy” subspecies of speed will not be enough to get away from the pursuit. But they do not hunt seahorses purposefully, since most of them are covered with sharp chitinous needles and growths.
Population and species status
Photo: What does a sea horse look like?
Most species of seahorses are on the verge of extinction. Data on the number of species is controversial: some scientists identify 32 species, others more than 50. Nevertheless, 30 species of seahorses are close to extinction.
The reasons for the disappearance of seahorses are different. They include:
- mass fishing of seahorses as a souvenir;
- catching seahorses as delicacies;
- environmental pollution;
- changing of the climate.
Seahorses are extremely susceptible to stress - the slightest change in the ecology of their habitat leads to death of seahorses. Pollution of the oceans mows the population of not only seahorses, but also many other fish.
Interesting fact: Sometimes a seahorse may choose a female who is not yet ready for mating. Then he still carries out all the rituals, but as a result of mating does not occur, and then he is looking for a new partner.
Photo: Seahorse from the Red Book
Most species of sea horses are listed in the Red Book. Seahorses received the status of protected species slowly, since it is extremely difficult to record the numbers of these fish. The long-snouted seahorses were the first in the Red Book - it was the Red Book of Ukraine in 1994. The protection of seahorses is hindered by the fact that seahorses die from extreme stress. It is impossible to resettle them in new territories, it is difficult to breed in aquariums and home water parks.
The main measures taken to protect skates are as follows:
- the prohibition of catching seahorses - it is classified as poaching;
- creation of protected areas on which large flocks of seahorses are located;
- fertility stimulation due to artificial feeding of seahorses in the wild.
The measures are poorly effective, as seahorses capture is still allowed and very active in Asia and Thailand. While the population is saved by the fecundity of these fish - out of a hundred eggs only one individual survives to adulthood, but this is a record number among most tropical fish.
Sea Horse - an amazing and unusual animal. They are distinguished by a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes, being one of the most striking species of fish. It is hoped that measures to protect seahorses will bear fruit, and these fish will continue to exist safely in the vast oceans.