Seahorses are far from being equine: They are a fish that swims upright. Their elongated faces give a horse-like appearance. They are small aquatic critters with the largest species growing to only 5 inches in length and the smallest barely reaching a single inch. Their bodies are covered with bony plates for protection and the coronet at the top of their heads is as unique to each seahorse as a thumbprint is to a human.
Three Caribbean Species
Although 32 different seahorse species have been identified worldwide, the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea serve as home to three species: dwarf, lined and longsnout seahorses. The dwarf is the smallest of all seahorses and is colored beige, yellow, green or black with white markings. The lined generally ranges in color from orange to brown, with some colored red, yellow or black. Its distinguishing feature—inspiring its name—is the white lines found on its head and neck. The longsnout is covered in brown spots and white dots. Its head is characterized by a disproportionately long snout. While found in great numbers in the Caribbean Sea, these three also live in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
Seahorse must eat constantly to keep themselves from starvation. This is because their bodies do not have a stomach that retains the food they eat while extracting the necessary nutrients over a long period. The food they eat—plankton, small shrimp, other small crustaceans and fish larvae—passes quickly through their bodies, leaving them hungry for more.
All seahorses, including those living in the Caribbean, are monogamous creatures. They mate for life and if one of the pair dies, the other often refrains from finding another mate. The courtship leading up to each mating session is filled with flirtation as they perform an aquatic dance around one another, change colors and eventually literally "hook up."
Males Give Birth
The female deposits her eggs in the male's abdominal brood pouch. He fertilizes the eggs inside the pouch, where they remain until hatching approximately 21 days later. After hatching, the baby seahorses remain in their father's pouch until they are capable of free swimming. To give birth, the father attaches himself to a plant stem by his tail and begins the process of popping the young out of his pouch. He bends his body rapidly backward and forward to propel the babies out.
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.