Seahorses of the world’s oceans are incredibly weird and beautiful creatures to observe. Varying in size and shape, color and texture, hovering nearly motionless in the clear water, they look more alien than anything that any science fiction writer could have possibly imagined.
Seahorses, those little fantasy ponies of the World’s oceans, they are a staple of every water fantasy and are amazing to see and weird to behold. Mystical and bizarre, their many shapes and forms are truly intriguing.
I have always loved seahorses, imagining them to be something from mythical Atlantis. Their alien bodies do not look Earth-like, if that makes any sense. And how bizarre it is, for it is the male seahorse that becomes pregnant! 89 of the 422 families of bony fish families of bony fish (this includes seahorses) exhibit parental care and nearly half of those (36 types) it is the male that exhibits the parental care of the babies. The male seahorse receives the eggs into his tummy pouch from the female where he fertilizes them, broods and in a few weeks, gives birth to live young! Yes, the male is the one that ‘becomes pregnant.’
This looks like an ALIEN from space!
Pair-bonding occurs for most species of seahorses, exhibiting a monogamous relationship for an entire season and perhaps, for several seasons. Daily greeting rituals strengthen this bond as the mated pair dance and circle each other for several minutes each morning, before separating for the day. These ritualized morning greetings occur throughout the male’s pregnancy period and possible ensure readiness to re-copulate after giving live birth, sometimes, just hours after the birthing...
Living Coral? No, Its ‘Hippocampus bargibanti,’ -Another Seahorse
This type of seahorse looks as if it is turned inside-out! Weird, huh?
There are over 32 species of these creatures in the waters of the world. They prefer sheltered waters that have hiding places such as coral reefs, the tangle of mangrove roots and grass beds of the seas.
Found in many varying sizes ranging from just an inch up to nearly a foot long in some species, they come in many colors and shapes to match and conceal them within their environment.
Seahorses are territorial, with the males not ranging far from their chosen locale, generally, about one square meter of real estate. The females however, extend their ranging approximately one hundred times greater than their male counterpart’s territory.
Some seahorse have body shapes that mimic their surrounding, like seaweeds and kelps, and others have coloration that more closely matches the reef corals of which they live. Because they are slow swimmers they need to be camouflaged well to maintain their safety.
A Pregnant Papa Seahorse Ready to give Birth
The male pregnancy last for 2 to 4 weeks and the temperature of the water seems to be a factor as the duration decreases with warmer waters. The number of babies the male expels varies among species but averages 100 to 200 individuals for most. Some species of seahorse can give birth to as many as 1500 fully formed babies, and as few as five or six baby seahorses at a time.
Threatened, Endangered and Over-Exploited
Seahorses are a commodity that we must preserve through better practices and conservation. This one does not appear to be alive.
These placid slow-swimming creatures are being threatened in their natural environment through accidental capture in non-selective fishing operations, habitat degradation and over-exploitation. The latter being for traditional medicines, tonic foods, and curiosities as in dried ornaments and displays sold in curio shops. Also, wild-caught seahorses are often sold in pet shops to marine hobbyists. The latter being the first, best way to change their habits; they should only buy ‘captive-raised’ seahorses from other reputable hobbyists and pet shops that only deal with legitimate producers. Seahorses can be prolific breeders if raised correctly, and there can be a steady supply of them for the pet trade if applied correctly.