More than 20 million seahorses are caught from the wild each year to supply the Traditional Chinese Medicine market. People in Asia have been using seahorses for thousands of years as a cure for a variety of ailments. According to Project Seahorse over 70 countries are involved in the wild seahorse trade. They are harvested throughout the year but especially from August to September. Major sources include the Philippines, Indonesia and India. Wild populations of seahorses used in Traditional Medicine are under threat due to the extremely high demand.
They use their long snout to suck food like tiny fish, plankton and small shrimp. The food that they eat, passes into their digestive systems very quickly as they do not have a stomach and teeth. As the digestion procedure in seahorses is so quick, they need to constantly eat to live.
Seahorses have excellent eyesight and their eyes are able to work independently on either side of their head. This means they can look forwards and backwards at the same time! This is particulartly useful as they hunt for food by sight.
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.
The average height of a full-grown sea horse is 2-8 inches. Seahorses also vary in color, including orange, red, yellows, grey, and greens. Seahorses can come in patterns like “zebra stripes” and spots. Seahorses change color to blend in with their surroundings.
The seahorse is found in many different locations around North and South America. They are typically located in the shallow tropical waters that are quite warm. They will be found living along the coral, the sea grass, and the mangroves. In Europe they are known to reside in the Thames estuary. Many of the larger species are living in the Mediterranean Sea.
Seahorses might not look like traditional fishes, but they are true fishes of the class Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes). Sea horses inhabit both tropical and temperate waters and are found in many different parts of the world. There are over 30 described species of seahorse.
Seahorses are truly unique, and not just because of their unusual equine shape. Unlike most other fish, they are monogamous and mate for life. Rarer still, they are among the only animal species on Earth in which the male bears the unborn young. Male seahorses are equipped with a brood pouch on their ventral, or front-facing, side. When mating, the female deposits her eggs into his pouch, and the male fertilizes them internally. He carries the eggs in his pouch until they hatch, then releases fully formed, miniature seahorses into the water.
There is no doubt that a seahorse is a fish: it lives in water, breathes through gills and has a swim bladder. However, it also has some very strange and unusual features, the most striking of which is its tail. During the course of evolution, the seahorse's tail became much stronger, enabling it to live a more sedentary lifestyle amongst the weeks. The tail has no caudal fin and is long and very snake-like. It is prehensile, allowing the seahorse to grip onto eel grass, other weeds and any holdfast to prevent itself from being washed away by the strong currents and waves in the shallow weedy seas in which it lives.
Seahorses are truly bony fish, as is the tuna. However, their mystique remains. They are assigned to the family Syngnathidae (from the Greek, meaning "fused jaws"), along with the pipefish, pipe horses, and sea dragons. The family is placed within the order Syngnathiformes (or Gasterosteiformes).