Seahorses

One of the more unusual creatures of the sea is the seahorse, also known as sea-horse or sea horseThese creatures have heads that resemble that of horses, armored bodies, and prehensile tails.

Seahorse
Seahorse picture from CoralKey Scuba and Travel

Life of a Horse Sea-Monster

Seahorse's eyes can look in different directions, independently of each other.  They can change colors to camouflage themselves.  They have a bony exoskeleton.  Between that, their horse-like heads, and their tails with which they grip things with to anchor themselves in place, it's no surprise how the genus got it's name:  hippocampus, which comes from the ancient greek words for hippos (horse) and kampos (sea monster).  There are over 46 species of seahorse.

Seahorses eat tiny crustacea, which they suck in through their snouts.  They do this from 30 to 50 times a day just to stay alive, because their digestive systems lack stomachs.  Unlike other fish, seahorses swim upright.  Also unlike most other creatures, the males give birth.  The creatures are very tiny, ranging in size from a little over half an inch up to fourteen inches, and they live up to four years.

Courtship and Mating

Courting seahorses dance together every morning, part of the time with their tails intertwined, part of the time swimming in synch with each other.  The morning greeting is partly to check that the other is still alive, partly to reinforce their bond, and partly to synchronize their reproductive cycles.  The creatures also wheel in unison in a 'pre-dawn dance'.  Sometimes they move together while gripping the same strand of grass with their tails.  The female then leaves, returning each morning to repeat the process with him.  They do this for 2 - 4 weeks, depending on the species.

After several days, their courtship enters a serious phase, which only lasts about 8 hours.  During this time, the male repeatedly shows his empty egg pouch.  When the female's eggs reach maturity, they rise up together in a roughly 6 minute dance, often spiraling around each other.  The male then starts sucking food through his snout, while the female uses her ovipositor to deposit her eggs into his pouch.

While in his pouch, the eggs get fertilized by the male.  The male gives birth from an average of 100-1000 baby seahorses (called fry), which go on to live in the plankton layer for the first few weeks of life.

Most seahorses are monogamous during the course of a mating season, after which they often go their separate ways.

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