The seahorse is a type of fish that belongs to the Hippocampus genus. In addition, the seahorse belongs to the family Syngathidae, which is a family that includes the pipefish, the leafy sea dragons, in addition to the seahorse. While many believe that there is just one type of seahorse, there are actually 32 different species of the seahorse.
Most of the 32 seahorse species are found in very shallow tropical and subtropical waters throughout the world. The seahorse tends to live in sheltered areas such as mangroves, coral reefs, and sea grass beds. The species are found in all tropical waters around the world including in Europe, North America, and South America.
The seahorse ranges in size from about an inch long to over a foot long depending on which species of the seahorse you are looking at. Forming territories, the seahorse male stays in about one square meter of their habitat at all times while the females from any given seahorse territory will move about much more freely, roaming an area that is about 100 times bigger than the males.
When simply swimming about the seahorse is usually a brown and gray pattern that will allow them to camouflage into the mangroves, coral reefs, and mangrove stands that they like to hang around in. While they can camouflage into these areas, when they are being social with one another the seahorse will turn very bright colors. In fact, it has been established that seahorse mates will turn a pale yellow color when they see one another each morning.
Origin of the Name
The seahorse was very definitely named for its horse like appearance. Many don't realize it, but the seahorse is a fish. While the seahorse is a fish it does not have scales, instead it has a very thin skin that covers bony plates that are put together in the shape of rings throughout their body. Each species of seahorse can be determined by the number of rings under its skin, as each seahorse species has a distinct number of rings.
Every seahorse species swims in an upright position, which is one more thing that distinguishes the seahorse from other fish. An interesting fact about the seahorse is that they each have a very individualized coronet on their head, one different from every other, much like the human fingerprint! The seahorse moves very slowly through the waters not because it necessarily wants to, but because the seahorse is generally not a talented swimmer. The seahorse swims using a dorsal fin, which they have to move about rapidly in addiction to pectoral fins that are located behind the eyes. The seahorse is often seen sitting in the sea grass instead of swimming, and this is because they are poor swimmers, most seahorses find that it is easier just to be relatively stationary. The long snout of the seahorse is used to suck up the food that they eat and they have eyes that can move independent of the other, which aides in hunting for food. The seahorse is known to dine on small shrimp, small fish, and plankton.
The seahorse is known to have courtship rituals that are quite interesting to watch. When a male and a female see one another they often turn bright colors, do a courtship dance, and then do an actual mating dance together. Mates that have been together for some time will greet one another with bright colors each morning and even swim together with their tails entwined. Mates are known to stay together for a lifetime. Due to the intense relations of the seahorse, the seahorse has long been used as a symbol for friendship.