Everyone loves watching a seahorse because of its unusual appearance and movement. As the name suggests, it looks like a horse, but is actually a fish belonging to the Hippocampus genus. While the word hippos stands for a 'horse', campus means a 'sea monster'. More than 30 species of seahorses have been identified in the world.
Where are Seahorses Found?
Seahorses are mostly found between the 45°N and 45°S latitudes, as they prefer warm water. Most of these live in the Indo-Australian region. They are also found along the Atlantic coast of Europe, Africa, and North America. As for the Pacific coast of America, it only has two species to its credit. Seahorses are thus, widely distributed.
What About Their Habitat?
Seahorses prefer sheltered areas where they can hide from their predators. They wander freely in seagrasses and mangroves. They find themselves comfortable in coral reefs in shallow warm water. When they see a predator, they literally come to a standstill. They deserve to be called the 'masters of camouflage', as they change their colors according to the surrounding habitat and thus, look like plants among which they live. This makes them virtually undetectable.
In fact, plants are more important to seahorses than we think. They are poor swimmers. Their undulant motion is controlled by their lone dorsal fin. Their pectoral fins help them turn. To remain stationary though, they need to hold on to something, and this is where the plants, grass, and corals in their natural habitat come into the picture.
Food availability is yet another characteristic trait of the seahorse habitat. As they don't have teeth and stomach, the food they ingest passes through their digestive system very quickly, and thus, they need to eat constantly to survive. Their food includes daphnia, cyclops, larvae, or mysis. They also eat tiny planktonic crustaceans, like copepods and baby fish. Ingestion of water promotes digestion. A two week old seahorse requires 3000 to 4000 brine shrimp per day.
Some studies show that the seahorse population is on decline, mainly in the waters around southern Asia. More than 36 countries are involved in the trade of this species. Because of their unique structure, they are very popular as pets. Some countries use them to make traditional medicines. It is believed that they can cure asthma, heart diseases, and a whole lot of other disorders. Some people even believe that they are aphrodisiac. It is estimated that 20 million seahorses are traded each year for medicinal purposes or for being sold as aquarium pets. Many are used as curios (i.e., dried seahorses, which are used to make for key rings, earrings, brooches, etc.) as well.
Researchers inform that more than half of the seahorses in the world have been destroyed by humans in the past five years alone. If we are to protect the species, it is very important to preserve their habitat.