Seahorses are one of the weirder animals you can see at the Two Oceans Aquarium. With their horse-like heads, rounded stomachs, and curved tails, they are quite a bizarre sight. More than 45 species of seahorses live in coastal waters around the world, yet they remain relatively mysterious to us. At the Aquarium, we house a group of Knysna seahorses, which are critically endangered. Here are seven splendid facts about seahorses:
1. Colours for communication
Most seahorses are spotted, speckled, or striped, while some have frills, spikes, or crowns on their skin. Their colouring is widely varying and can even change to camouflage or to communicate with other seahorses. This adaptation can be used to signal a predator is near or to attract a mate.
2. Size seahorse
The tiniest species of seahorse is no bigger than a butter bean; the largest can reach more than 30cm from head to tail tip.
3. Just keep swimming...
Seahorses are not particularly good swimmers, so they get around with frantic beats of their dorsal and pectoral fins. These fins beat at up to 70 times per second. With all this effort, seahorses are easily exhausted, and thus many are swept away by heavy currents.
4. Food, glorious food
Seahorses are ambush predators. They stay still in the water, waiting for fish larvae, copepods, and shrimp to float past, before grabbing them with speed. Seahorses are toothless and lack a stomach for storing food, so use their long snouts for vacuuming up plankton frequently.
5. Fickle partners
These animals have fragile mating habits: if a pair is separated for a time, or if the male’s health declines, a female may switch partners rather than stick with her original mate.
6. Threats to seahorse
The most significant threat to seahorses is intense overfishing. Every year, millions of seahorses are scooped up as bycatch by commercial trawlers. Furthermore, there is also targeted fishing of seahorses as they are sold in the Asian traditional medicine market.
7. Body positivity
These quirky animals have flesh-covered bony plates instead of scales, their eyes work independently of each other, and even have prehensile tails! They use their tails to grip the seafloor, avoiding drifting.
Come and pay our group of Knysna seahorses a visit and learn all there is to learn about these beautiful animals, here at the Two Oceans Aquarium!