Science Snapshot: Seahorse

As a kid, the seahorse was always my favorite fish. Whenever I visited an aquarium I made it a point to see the seahorses first. My childhood exuberance for the seahorse continues to this day. I hope you enjoy my recent seahorse photos from my latest aquarium trip! But what made the seahorse so appealing to me as a child? Perhaps because it is the essence of creative design, with many unique and random physical traits as if a child created is as a mash-up of multiple different animals combined into one sea creature. Here are just a few traits I found interesting enough to post:

  1. Head and neck shape like a horse- Indeed, the common name “seahorse” comes from its interesting equine appearance.
  2. Chameleon eyes- A seahorse has eyes similar to a chameleon’s. A seahorse, like a chameleon, can move each eye independent of each other. This means that it can focus on two different objects at once!
  3. Bony plated armor- The entire body of a seahorse is covered in bony plates covered by a thin layer of skin. Like stacking rings on a finger, these bony plate rings travel up and down the seahorse’s body and act as added protection in case a predator attacks.
  4. Small dorsal and pectoral fins- A seahorse is actually a terrible swimmer, one of the slowest swimmers in the sea kingdom. Its dorsal fins keep it upright and propel it forward while the pectoral fins (located just behind its eyes) are used for steering and changing direction.
  5. Prehensile tile- A prehensile tail, or a tail used to grasp objects like trees, is very unique as far as sea creatures go. Their tails are used to grasp stationary objects like coral or grass and rest safely hidden from predators.
  6. Effective camouflaging- Seahorses come in a variety of camouflages such as the leafy sea dragon blending in with surrounding plants or the pygmy seahorse blending in with surrounding coral.
  7. The males give birth- Perhaps the most widely known interesting fact about seahorses is that the males give birth instead of the females. After successful courtship, the females inject their eggs into the male’s pouch using an ovipositor. The males then nourish the eggs inside their pouch until they are fully developed. The males can give birth to about 100-1000 baby seahorses at a time (this is an average number, it really depends on the species). They give birth to such a high number of babies at once because very few of them survive to adulthood.
  8. Seahorses are the kings/queens of evolution- The seahorse genome has been recently recorded by scientists as the most rapidly evolving fish genome (so far) recorded. That means mutations that alter the physical traits of the seahorse occur more often than other fish species. If Charles Darwin had an aquarium, I am pretty sure it was filled mostly with seahorses!

If you are ever feeling like you need more creativity in your life, or you want to find your long lost childhood exuberance, than just look up a bunch of pictures of seahorses… it works for me every time!

 

 

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