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are seahorses mammals or reptiles
are seahorses fish or mammals
Seahorses are truly unique, and not just because of their unusual equine shape. Unlike most other fish, they are monogamous and mate for life. Rarer still, they are among the only animal species on Earth in which the male bears the unborn young.
Habitat and Size
Found in shallow tropical and temperate waters throughout the world, these upright-swimming relatives of the pipefish can range in size from 0.6 inches to 14 inches long.
Males and Reproduction
Male seahorses are equipped with a brood pouch on their ventral, or front-facing, side. When mating, the female deposits her eggs into his pouch, and the male fertilizes them internally. He carries the eggs in his pouch until they hatch, then releases fully formed, miniature seahorses into the water.
Swimming and Movement
Because of their body shape, seahorses are rather inept swimmers and can easily die of exhaustion when caught in storm-roiled seas. They propel themselves by using a small fin on their back that flutters up to 35 times per second. Even smaller pectoral fins located near the back of the head are used for steering.
They anchor themselves with their prehensile tails to sea grasses and corals, using their elongated snouts to suck in plankton and small crustaceans that drift by. Voracious eaters, they graze continually and can consume 3,000 or more brine shrimp per day.
Population data for most of the world’s more than 30 seahorse species is sparse. However, worldwide coastal habitat depletion, pollution, and rampant harvesting, mainly for use in Asian traditional medicine, have made several species vulnerable to extinction.
7 Wild Facts You May Not Know About Seahorses
These extraordinary facts may change the way you look at seahorses forever
Found in both tropical and temperate waters all across the globe, seahorses are arguably one of the most distinctive and charismatic marine wildlife species in existence. Ranging in length from more than a foot to under one inch, there are more than 40 known species of these ‘horses of the sea’ recorded by scientists to date. From odd dieting tendencies to adorably romantic relationship rituals, there’s much more to seahorses’ majestic intrigue than their trademark elongated mouths and curly tails. Here are just a few wildly fun facts you may not have known about this charming species.
They may not look like it, but they’re technically fish
Due to their unique anatomical shape and lack of scales, many people may not consider seahorses ‘fish’ at first, but they are indeed! Possessing swim bladders to remain buoyant in the water and utilizing gills to breathe, these fish also thrive in a strong suit of sturdy armor-like plates. Their tough, bony makeup makes them pretty tough for other fish to digest, illustrating the reason for their lack of many natural predators. Other than crustaceans like crabs who can pluck them up with their sharp pincers, humans are likely one of the more significant threats to the species, historically harvesting the animals faster than they’re able to reproduce. Luckily, we’ve made some progress against such population depletion, but there’s still much work to be done to protect this species as we learn more about their still largely mysterious global distribution patterns.
Romance is real in the seahorse world
Seahorse couples are essentially serial monogamists, sticking with one partner for long periods of time. Remaining committed to a single partner enables seahorses to pass through multiple reproduction cycles during each mating season, heightening the likelihood of successful, continuous procreation over time.
Every morning, seahorse couples engage in ritualistic dances to greet each other, moving through intricate, rhythmic sequences of twists and twirls for minutes to hours on end. While we humans may schedule dates with romantic prospects to analyze our compatibility and get to know each other better, seahorses prove we’re not the only species that ‘date!’ They engage in their daily dances to strengthen their romantic bond, ensure their reproductive cycles are properly synced and to verify each day that their partner is both still fervently committed and, frankly, alive (hey, that’s kind of important).
Males take the lead when it comes to the labor of childbirth
Seahorse ladies need not fret when it comes to gestation and childbirth. Perhaps one of their most distinctive traits, the Syngnathidae family (which includes both seahorses and their cousins, pipefishes and seadragons) stands remarkably unique in that it’s the males that carry the burden of pregnancy, not the females. After their complex courting dance during a reproductive cycle, female seahorses will place their eggs into an oviduct in the male’s body, which is housed in what’s known as a brood pouch. Once the placement is complete, males settle into an area to rest throughout gestation, which can last up to a number of weeks.
When it’s finally time for the babies to be born, the father’s body experiences strong contractions that expel the young out of his pouch. As little as five to as many as 1,000 juvenile seahorses, often called ‘frys’ in the fish world, can be born to the world in a single birthing session. Estimates suggest that only about 0.5% of the offspring will survive to become reproducing adults, so the babies are independent immediately upon birth, pushing as hard as they can right away to become thriving, strong and growing seahorse lads and lasses.
Seahorses are infamously awful swimmers
Seahorses aren’t just different from other fish in their external appearance, either: they’re also ridiculously poor swimmers. They are the slowest-moving of all fish species because of an impeccably tiny fin in the middle of their backs being the only way to propel themselves. This one little fin can beat back and forth up to 50 times a second, but the size of the fin keeps it from making much progress when it comes down to distance traveled. Even with small pectoral fins that assist in steering, seahorses are sadly known to be so delicate that they can become fatally exhausted when waters get rough during storms.
However, while they aren’t all that durable, seahorses are quite unique in that they can not only move forward, but also up, down and backward. The shape of their heads also helps them move through the water almost silently; when you combine that with their ability to camouflage into their surroundings thanks to helpful chromatophores within their skin cells, it’s clear that seahorses make apt hunters, proven by a predatory kill rate of around 90%. Hey, if you’re going to have a hard time swimming, might as well be super stealthy and efficient to make up for it!