Seahorses live in shallow water. They are mostly found in the ocean and estuary. They love attaching themselves to seaweeds, coral reefs, and any other things found under the water. So, why do these unique groups of fishes live in coral reefs?
Seahorses live in coral reefs to avoid being swept away by the ocean current. They are the slowest swimmers among all ocean fishes. If heavy ocean current takes them away from their base, they may struggle to survive. Therefore, they prevent this by attaching themselves to the coral reef.
However, the fish has adaptive features that make attaching itself to the underwater object possible and easy. We will explain that in detail.
“Seahorses Body Structure
A seahorse’s body is unique. They do not look like a typical fish; rather, they look more like a horse. Of course, that is how they got their name.
However, they are fish, and that is not difficult to see. They have a pair of pectoral fins and a dorsal fin, but they do not have caudal fins. They use their pectoral fins for swimming.
Unfortunately, the fins are small compared with those of other fishes, and that affects their swimming speed. Also, they swim upright, unlike most other fishes that swim side to side.
Apart from these, seahorses are bony fishes but do not have scales. Instead, their bodies are covered by bony plates. This inhibits their movement and contributes significantly to their slow swimming speed.
Their heads are long, and as mentioned earlier, look like those of horses. They also have coiled tails, which completes the resemblance with the horse. Although, the tails make them look more like a monkey.
Another unique feature of this fish are their eyes. Seahorses have a pair of eyes that work independently. The fish can focus on two different locations at the same time. It can adjust its eyes such that one will be looking at the front and the other will be looking at the back. A seahorse could be less than a centimeter in length, and some are as long as 30 centimeters.
So, how does this body structure affect its swimming ability and contribute to its adaptation in the coral reefs?
Seahorses Adaptation to The Coral Reefs
Many factors contribute to the poor swimming ability of seahorses. The major ones are the small size of the pectoral fins, absence of the caudal fins, upward swimming nature, and most importantly, the bony plates that cover its body.
In addition, because they cannot swim successfully if the ocean current becomes terrible, many of them have been killed by the ocean current.
Therefore, they usually anchor themselves to objects they can find under the water, like seagrasses and coral reefs. Luckily, they have a coiled tail which they can use to stay attached to the rocks and relax underwater.
Other Adaptative Features of Seahorses
Apart from their ability to attach their bodies successfully to the coral reefs, seahorses also have other interesting adaptative features. These include their well-developed vision and eyes that can be shifted independently.
Because they can focus on different places simultaneously, they can easily see predators when they are far away from them. This feature is essential as they move slowly. Hence, they must run away early enough to avoid being caught.
However, seahorses do not need to run from predators most of the time. This remarkable fish has the ability to camouflage. They can change their color to be similar to that of their environment.
They can also blend with the environment. The vision of most aquatic animals is not well developed. Hence, when seahorses blend with the environment, their predators will not likely distinguish them from other objects in their surroundings. Therefore, the predator will just swim away.
Seahorses have no stomachs. Because of this, they cannot store food for a long time. To overcome this challenge, they have to be frequently feeding on their prey. Instead of eating a large quantity of food at a time, they will do well with a small amount at a regular interval.
But that is also another challenge. Seahorses are equipped with snouts that are extensible. This helps them to quickly grab small shrimps, planktons, crustaceans, larvae, and other small invertebrates for food.
Their ability to camouflage also helps them to attack these prey before the prey notices the danger. Seahorses have no teeth. Therefore, they swallow their food in whole.
Another interesting behavior of seahorses is their reproduction. Although eggs are developed in females after fertilization, she will transfer them to the males. Hence the male seahorse is the one carrying the fertilized egg to gestation and produces the young ones.
This behavior enables the female to start making more eggs while the male carries the fertilized ones. This increases the rate of reproduction in the fish, which is essential as their rate of survival is low.
Seahorses have unique body features. These features contribute to their inability to swim fast. Hence, they are among the slowest moving fishes in the ocean. Therefore, they are seen most of the time resting rather than swimming.
To avoid being swept away by the ocean current, seahorses usually attach themselves to objects found under the water. Coral, seagrasses, and rocks are suitable objects for these fishes to anchor themselves. They typically use their long finless tails to tightly and safely attach themselves with these objects.
Other adaptive features of seahorses include their ability to blend in with their environment. These protect them against predators and also help them catch prey. Their eyes are well developed and can be focussed on separate locations at the same time. They also have long and extensible snouts, which they use to catch prey. Also, seahorses frequently feed on their prey because they lack stomachs.