Female Seahorses

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Of the many fish of the sea, none is more interesting and unique than the seahorse. Seahorses are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Gasterosteiformes, family Syngnathidae, and the genus Hippocampus. The genus name Hippocampus comes from two Greek words; hippos meaning horse and campus meaning monster. Their physical appearance explains why they received their name. They have a horse-like head and a curled tail. They have developed many unique adaptations such as mobile eyes and a long snout that help them survive in the seas and oceans. The most interesting thing about seahorses to most people though, is that the male becomes pregnant. Many people are fascinated by the seahorse and they begin to keep them as pets. Because of their removal from the ocean for this reason and many others such as Chinese medicine and beach souvenirs, they have become highly demanded throughout the world and thus have become somewhat endangered. Seahorses are marine fish that are very small when you compare them to many other animals in the ocean. They range in size from 1.6-20 cm and vary in color from shades of red, orange, yellow, gray, and green. They can also have patterns covering their body like zebra stripes or spots. They are part of the vertebra group which means they have an interior skeleton. Their bodies are covered in armored plates for protection. These plates also serve as ribs and are probably a derivative of scales. Seahorses breathe through gills and do not have a tail fin like other fish. Seahorses have a dorsal fin on their backs that propels them forward through the water upright and moves almost as fast as hummingbird’s wings. The dorsal fin can move up to seventy times per minute! The seahorses’ pectoral fins near their neck are very important and are used for turning and steering. The coronet found on the top of a seahorse’s head is as distinctive to each seahorse as thumbprints are to humans. Seahorses do not have a stomach so they must eat large amounts of food each day to survive. Seahorses feed on daphnia, cyclops, plankton, worms, larval fish, amphipods which are small, shrimp-like crustaceans, and other invertebrates and microorganisms. They have no teeth to chew their food but one seahorse can eat up to three thousand brine shrimp per day. Male seahorses can be distinguished from female seahorses by their smooth, white, lower abdomen (pouch). They mostly live between the fifty degrees north and fifty degrees south latitude lines in temperate and tropical water near the coasts in sea grass, sea weed, mangroves, microalge, and coral reefs. Wild seahorses are thought to live about one to five years depending on species. Spending many years in the ocean, seahorses have developed special adaptations that help them survive. For example, some are partially transparent and others can camouflage themselves. These properties allow seahorses to escape and hide from their prey in a safe place like seaweed. Some seahorses have leaf-like appendages that help them to hide in and blend in with the color of kelp beds. All of these adaptations help the seahorse to hide from prey. A few seahorses are poisonous; thus, making them a danger to some of their predators. Their natural predators consist of crabs, tuna, skates, and sting rays to name a few. Seahorses also have small fins that help them to move through thick water vegetation easily. If their fins were any larger, they may get caught and tangled in the thick sea grass. They also have highly mobile eyes that move independent of each other. Their wide range of motion makes it much easier to watch for prey in an ocean where light can sometimes be scarce. Another adaptation they have developed is their long tubular jaws like a snout that they use to suck up their food. Seahorses are ambush predators and they use their snout to suck up their prey whole. When their prey comes close, the seahorse can snap it up from up to...
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