Few ocean animals are viewed with such adoration as the seahorse. With roughly 54 different subspecies, there is a seahorse out there to catch everyone’s eye. From the 1/2-inch Satomi’s pygmy seahorse to the 13.7-inch big belly seahorse, there is enough variety to spend a lifetime discussing their unique characteristics. The seahorse class of fish as a whole, however, offers just as many special traits that might surprise you.
#1 – They’re Bad Swimmers
Seahorses are fish, but they’re notoriously bad swimmers. In fact, they are so bad at swimming, too strong a current can cause them to die from exhaustion. They propel themselves by using their tiny dorsal fins and using the pectoral fins on their sides for maneuvering. They swim upright and are only one of two fish species to do so, the other being razorfish. The slowest moving fish in the world is the dwarf seahorse, with a top speed of about 5 feet per hour. Instead, you’ll likely find seahorses hanging onto aquatic plants (or each other) using their tails.
#2 – Males Give Birth
One of the most notable characteristics of seahorses is that the males are the ones that give birth. Although the females produce the eggs, they deposit them into the males pouch after fertilization. The male then keeps the eggs and provides them with the proper nutrients until they hatch into fully developed, although very tiny, young. They’ll emerge from his pouch fully functional and his parenting role is over at that point. Once he gives birth to the live babies, his mate will visit him to deposit more fertilized eggs.
#3 – They Have No Stomachs
Seahorses eat small crustaceans, such as Mysis shrimp. They have no teeth, using their long snouts to suction their prey into their mouths. Even more surprising, seahorses have no stomachs. This means that their food passes through their digestive systems very quickly and they need to feed constantly. On average, seahorses will consume as much as 3,000 pieces of food per day.
#4 – Tails Do Most Of The Work
Since they are such poor swimmers, seahorses rely on their prehensile tails to do most of the work. Unable to swim away from predators or to catch prey, their tails help secure them to the aquatic plants they hide in so well. Their tails are often used for fighting, especially during mating periods, although both males and females will fight over territory and food.
#5 – Camouflage Is Everything
Seahorses are incredible hiders. Similar to chameleons, many species are able to change color to reflect the plants or objects they are clinging onto. Others have taken on the unique appearance of their favorite aquatic plants, such as the leafy sea dragon. Since they’re unable to swim away from predators, this camouflage helps keep them protected and is actually their only means of avoiding danger. In the same sense, it’s also the only way they’re capable of catching food that comes by. Their lack of swimming technique has made them masters of disguise and is something to be admired.