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6, Dec, 2010

Seahorse – Hippocampus

Posted in Fish Finder, Latest News by simon

Seashorse Facts:

  • The seahorse species range in size from .6 inches (smaller than a thumbnail) to little over one foot (14 inches).
  • They can rotate their eyes 360°, each independent of the other.
  • They have no teeth and no stomach.
  • When birthed, seahorse babies are fully formed, having grown inside their father’s pouch.
  • The only species in the entire animal kingdom to do so, the male seahorse bears the young.
  • Voracious eaters, seahorses consume an average of 3000 plankton, brine shrimp, and other microscopic marine life each day. By the time a seahorse is two weeks old, its appetite is “adult.”
  • Most seahorses use camouflage to blend in with their surroundings.
  • Because of their upright position, seahorses are not the best swimmers. As a result, they spend most of their time stationary, anchored to vegetation.

Seahorse - Hippocampus

Seahorse – What are they?

The word ‘seahorse’ can conjure an image of your a 6ft. tall black stallion galloping off into the deep blue sea. In reality, however, the opposite is true with respect to the relative size of this elusive sea creature. That being the case, the Seahorse still maintains an air of mystery with the very mention of its name.

Seahorse - HippocampusDating back to the the Ancient Greek period, the Seahorse is of the genus Hippocampus, which literally means “horse sea monster”: hippos translates to “horse” and kampos to “sea monster” from Greek.

Seahorses are named for their equine profile. Although they are bony fish, they do not have scales, but rather a thin skin stretched over a series of bony plates arranged in rings throughout their body. Seahorses have a coronet on their head, which is distinct to each individual, much like a human fingerprint.

Seahorses swim upright which distinguishes them from the closely related pipefish but they swim very poorly by using a dorsal fin, which they rapidly flutter and pectoral fins, located behind their eyes, which they use to steer. Seahorses also have no caudal fin.

Male seahorses become pregnant, not the females. Born with pouches like a kangaroo’s, male seahorses are perfectly designed to carry and protect seahorse eggs and hatchlings until they’re ready to strike out on their own. Within days of releasing one brood, males become pregnant once again. Its a tough life to be a male seahorse.

There are nearly 50 species of seahorse which are mainly found in shallow tropical and temperate waters throughout the world. They prefer to live in sheltered areas such as seagrass beds, coral reefs or mangroves where they form territories, with males staying in about 1 square metre (11 sq ft) of their habitat while females range about one hundred times that area.

Our excellent dive sites including Ko Haa are a great place to see the ‘Yellow Tigertail Seahorse’ with our expert guides being able to spot these creatures amongst the vast walls of soft corals.

A Perspective: Diving with a Seahorse for the first time

While hearing other divers compare seahorse stories it is not hard to get a little frustrated after many dives and not seeing these tiny sea creatures with your own eyes. After all, seahorses always manage to stir up excitement amongst divers before a dive if the chance of a sighting is in order. Very similar in fact to the excitement divers feel before the chance of maybe seeing an ocean giant like a manta or whale shark which is pretty amazing when you consider the size difference between the two.

Seahorse - HippocampusAfter many times visiting Thailand’s top dive sites I had made it my mission to find my first seahorse. I knew where to look, I knew the best places to find them, I knew what size, shape and colour they are in order to find one but had still never seen one. Without building up the knack of spotting them like the rest of our excellent Scubafish guides it can be a very challenging task. You eventually realise patience seems to be a very handy tool when trying to find them.

The proverb ‘All good things to those who wait’ has finally paid off. A short time ago, Staff and customers of Scubafish were out for a dive excursion to the Ko Haa (‘Five Islands’) dive site. With 5 staff members and 14 guests aboard, we mutually agreed to dive “Ko Haa Island #1” which has beautiful coral walls and the famous ‘chimney’ swim-through.

The search for seahorses topped the to-do list for the first portion of our first dive. With such a large search party consisting of staff and guests, only 20 minutes passed until…it finally happened: in my peripheral vision I saw a diver point and make a ‘riding a horse’ signal. Immediately, the nearly 20 divers knew what had been discovered and we all began to flock to the claimant.  Be it by fluke or by strategy, the Seahorse spotter was one of our instructors and was dubbed ‘winner’ of the ‘find a seahorse’ game in locating the first seahorse of the morning: a beautiful yellow tigertail seahorse specimen.

One by one we all had the opportunity to take a closer look. With my 3 fun divers in tow, we slowly drifted to the perfect outcropping of coral and the small but brilliant seahorse was revealed. The seahorse sat calmly and vertically on the coral, vibrant in color and just how I had pictured it would be in my mind.

With a it’s obvious resemblance to horse and it’s dorsal fin fluttering away, you can just imagine the impression the Seahorse must have had on the Ancient Greeks who were the first to view it so many years ago: Wow! What is this creature? What is that skeletal design?

Suddenly, upon gazing at the Seahorse, one gets a head full of questions in the face of this awe-inspiring and private creature.
Seahorse - Hippocampus
With my seahorse sighting now complete I look forward to seeing many more of these stunning sea creatures with many more excited guests. Amazing!

Simon, UK, 06/12/10



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