Hey, who are you calling a monster?

The scientific name for seahorses is hippocampus—from Greek words that mean "horse sea monster." The hippocampus was a huge, mythological beast with the head and front legs of a full-grown horse, and a long fish tail in back. About 500 years ago people started using the name for real seahorses, because of their horse-like heads. There are nearly 50 species of seahorses.

Suck it up
Seahorses don't have teeth or movable jaws—their mouths have evolved into tubes. They suck up tiny shrimp and other food that floats by, just like a vacuum cleaner, and they'll eat anything that fits through the tube. Adult seahorses consume 30–50 meals a day.
OK, they're not Michael Phelps
Unlike other fish, seahorses swim vertically in the water and can't move very fast. They don't have tail fins to propel them—instead they use their back (dorsal) fin to move forward and their side fins to stabilize and steer. To move up and down they adjust the amount of air in their swim bladders.

Because seahorses are not good swimmers, they tend to stay in the same territory their whole lives. Their long tails are good at grasping; they use them to hang on to seaweed or other anchors when currents are strong.
Shall we dance?
Seahorses enact elaborate mating rituals—when a male is attracted to a female he begins the courtship by "dancing" around her, changing color and producing clicking sounds, the only sound seahorses make, with the crown-like growth on top his head, the coronet. Male and female then wrap their tails together and float across the ocean floor. The dance can last for up to eight hours.
Mr. Mom
While they are connected during the mating ritual, the male shoots jets of water from the brooding pouch on his lower body to show that it's empty. The female deposits up to 2,000 eggs into the pouch. He then fertilizes them and becomes pregnant.

After the young are born—usually at night, under a full moon—they're on their own. Then the adult male and female are ready to start another brood, sometimes the same day! Seahorses are one of the few animal species in which the male bears the unborn young.
(Don't) take your medicine
Humans are the main threat to seahorses because the animals usually live near land and are affected especially badly by runoff and other pollution. Also, in some Asian traditions dried seahorses are popular as medicine, and some hobbyists like to put them in at-home fish tanks, so overfishing has become a big problem.


Seahorse range

Quick Facts

Diet: Carnivore
Size: Depends on species