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   HOME > Seahorses: Beyond Imagination > Seahorse Resource > Seahorse Anatomy


Seahorses were once thought of as mythological creatures. Their scientific name hippocampus means "horse" and "sea monster." Although they appear quite different, seahorses have all the characteristics that classify them as fish. The seahorse family includes related species such as the pipehorse, pipefish and seadragon.

Distinctive Headgear
The outline of a seahorse's head is called the "coronet" and is as unique to a seahorse as a thumbprint is to a human. Seahorse species can be identified based on the shape and features of the coronet. Coronets come in a wide variety of spines, knobs, angles, and sizes.

Eats like a horse
Their mouth lacks teeth and is actually a long tube designed to suck up tiny organisms. Seahorses are ambush predators remaining motionless until small animals swim within reach. With a flick of its head, the seahorse sucks the prey out of the water.

Seahorse Communication
Seahorses mostly use body language to communicate. Some are known to make clicking noises when they feed. The head of some seahorses make scientist think that the sound is produced when a bony file scrapes against another bone.

And they're off!
Seahorses lack the caudal and pelvic fins seen on most fish. Their pectoral and anal fins are tiny and used for steering and stabilization. They use their two dorsal fins for propulsion rather than the tail fin.

He's Having My Babies
The males get pregnant! The mating act begins with a long and complicated courtship dance. Intertwining their tails, the pair swims through the sea grass. The female passes eggs to the male's pouch where he fertilizes them. The eggs attach to the inside of the pouch. The male provides extra oxygen for the developing babies during incubation. He alters the pouch fluid to resemble seawater and eases the babies' transition into the ocean.

The Eyes Have It!
Seahorse eyes move independently of each other giving them a full 360 degree picture of their surroundings. Seahorses are always on the look out for predators or a tasty meal.

Hanging on by a Tail
Seahorses have muscular prehensile tails they use to anchor themselves to objects or their partner.

The Tall and Short of It
Seahorses range in size from 1 ½ inch to 1 foot. The smallest species is the pygmy seahorse. Seahorses are measured from the coronet to the tip of the outstretched tail. The jumbo version is the foot-long Pacific seahorse.

A seahorse of a different color
Seahorses exhibit a variety of colors from mottled brown to bright orange to yellow. Seahorses can be difficult to identify as they can change color to match their surroundings. They often display startling color changes in unusual surroundings or in social moments.

Pattern and Color
Many species of seahorses have blotchy skin patterns that disrupt the outline of their body. This can make it difficult for scientists to find and identify seahorses. Seahorses rely on their cryptic coloration to protect them from predators.



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