Seahorses are known in the aquarium industry as hard fish to take care of.
Yes, you heard me right they are fish, so named a seahorse because they obviously look like a horse and they live in the sea, not like a sea monkey, that doesn’t really look like a monkey and doesn’t live in the sea, but let’s stay on track here.
People are still willing to get seahorses despite their difficulty to care for them because they adore the seahorse’s horse-like appearance.
But, in their original sea environment, even these cute seahorses have predators that want to eat them…
The main predators of seahorses are humans, crabs, stingrays and manta Rays, tuna fish, seabirds, and octopuses.
Humans are the main predators of seahorses because of the reckless abandon and the sheer number of seahorses removed from the oceans each year for trivial purposes and with no regard for the fact that seahorses are endangered.
With that in mind, let’s explore all of the different reasons that humans are predators of seahorses.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Chinese medicine has been around for at least a couple thousand years and estimates are that at least a quarter of the world’s population uses traditional Chinese medicine. This has grown into a global multibillion-dollar industry.
Why is dried seahorse worth so much? Because it is believed to create virility in men first and foremost. Were talking about a potential natural viagra.
Dried seahorse is also believed to cure other problems such as asthma, insomnia, and heart disease., so of course, people are going to fork over the cash.
Unfortunately, where there is money involved, there is also much carlessness.
It was so bad at one point that it was estimated that 25 million seahorses a year were pulled from the oceans to supply Chinese medicinal use of seahorses alone.
If you ever go to any type of ‘Chinatown’ even in the U.S. you will see jars and bags numbering thousands of dried seahorses for sale. Rare breeds fetch even more money.
The problem with this is that the seahorses taken from the wild are not being replaced at a sustainable rate. Not even close.
Scientists estimate that hundreds of thousands of seahorses are removed from their natural habitat each year just to supply the aquarium trade.
People are encouraged to do their research when buying a seahorse to make sure that it was bred in captivity and not caught in the wild.
Seahorses are so small that when they are dried whole, they can be encased in glass curios and made into keychains, necklaces, decorations, or even something like a glass yo-yo, etc.
Some people just collect dried seahorses for display.
This is mainly evident along the coastlines where dried seahorses are used to make different kinds of jewelry and sold to local tourists.
Since crabs and seahorses both live in the same habitat in shallow waters, crabs will happily dine on a seahorse because the crab’s pinchers are strong enough to break the bony covering of the seahorse which would turn other would-be predators away if only after trying.
Stingrays and Manta Rays
Stingrays and manta rays usually come close to shores to breed and mate. Seahorses live near shores so they are bound to run into each other.
The rays are usually looking for plankton or other things to eat and the seahorses just happen to be there so they get eaten as well.
It is not believed that the rays go in search of the seahorses specifically.
Mainly tuna, but other large fish, including dolphins, will eat seahorses when they are desperate.
Sometimes strong currents, especially from storms, can sweep up seahorses and make them helpless to navigate since they are slow swimmers with tiny fins in the first place.
If a large fish sees them, it might just swallow them whole. Who needs to chew through the bones.
Penguins and Other Large Birds
Birds like these tend to pluck fish from shallow waters and like large fish that eat seahorses almost by accident, these large birds will pluck up seahorses sometimes, especially when there are a lot of birds together competing for food.
It was recently discovered that octopuses prey on seahorses when they come in contact with them.
Octopuses usually feed on molluscs and crustaceans, but also on slow-moving fishes such as
scorpionfish and lionfish.
Since octopuses can break the shells of creatures such as molluscs, they can also break the bony shell of seahorses, and since a seahorse is a slow-moving fish, seahorses fit the model of something an octopus would eat.
How Do Seahorses Protect Themselves From Predators?
Seahorses protect themselves from predators with camouflage, body armor, and hiding.
Seahorses have something called chromatophores in their skin that have different color pigments.
Thes chromatophores can expand depending on what the seahorse comes in contact with and give the seahorse the ability to match colorful corals and plants so that they become camouflaged.
Seahorses usually use camo to hide and wait for unsuspecting shrimp to come close enough to be eaten but this camo can also save them from predators that don’t see them.
Seahorses have such a bony outer shell that is so strong that most predators won’t try very hard to bite through it.
It takes a very strong predator like a crab to be able to crush the armor of a seahorse.
Most species of seahorses are pretty small so there are plenty of places to hide in the ocean.
Some of the bigger species of seahorses would have to rely on their camo and body armor.
I hope we have shown you the main predators of the seahorse, especially humans.
We encourage you to make sure you are buying a captive-bred seahorse if you buy one and to refrain from buying fired seahorses anywhere.