Family details: Syngnathidae

Introduction to Seahorses

The subfamily Hippocampinae contains all seahorses.

One of the most interesting living creatures in the bodies of water is the seahorse. They have a very unique look that people are quite interested in. With a face that looks like a horse that is where the name came from.

The large snout on a seahorse is very prominent and that helps them to be easily identified. They don’t do well swimming in the water which is why they will often be seen in a stage of resting. They feed on a variety of different invertebrates and small fish.

They are found in many bodies of water around the world. They prefer locations that are shallow, warm, and tropical in nature. They tend to blend in very wall to their surroundings so you may not see them at all unless they are pointed out to you.

Some seahorses are very small too which makes them even harder to find. The smallest species are about ½ inch tall. The largest ones are around 8 inches tall. You will find plenty of species that are between these two spectrums.

There are approximately 40 different spices that have been identified. While they all have some common features there are enough differences to put them into various categories. Some are able to change colors too so that they can consistently blend into their surroundings.

Fossils of the seahorse are very few but there have been some significant findings. They are dated back to about 3 million years ago. It is believed that the seahorse evolved in order to do well in shallow areas of water. They were able to thrive on the sea grass habitats found there.

They are also able to hide in those areas due to body blending in so well. The camouflage allows them to remain well protected against various types of predators. The males are the ones that will carry the eggs for the young. They are placed into his body by the female after some complex mating rituals have taken place.

The seahorse doesn’t seem to do very well in captivity. Many people continue to keep them in an aquarium but they often die due to high levels of stress or disease. In many locations the number of them in the wild are being depleted.

While researching this lovely animal, I wanted to check and see which is the correct spelling: sea horse, sea-horse or seahorse. Oddly, I could not find any literature to state the proper grammatical use of the word(s). However, I did notice that every (that I found) conservation site used seahorse. This includes British, Canadian and US foundations.

Introduction to Pipefish

The subfamily syngnathinae contains all pipefish, pygmy pipehorses and seadragons*.

Pipefishes look like straight-bodied seahorses with tiny mouths. The name is derived from the peculiar form of the snout, which is like a long tube, ending in a narrow and small mouth which opens upwards and is toothless. The body and tail are long, thin, and snake-like. They each have a highly modified skeleton formed into armored plating. This dermal skeleton has several longitudinal ridges, so a vertical section through the body looks angular, not round or oval as in the majority of other fishes.

Pipefishes, like their seahorse relatives, leave most of the parenting duties to the male, which provides all of the postzygotic care for its offspring, supplying them with nutrients and oxygen through a placenta-like connection. It broods the offspring either on distinct region of its body or in a brood pouch. Brood pouches vary significantly among different species of pipefish, but all contain a small opening through which female eggs can be deposited. The location of the brood pouch can be along the entire underside of the pipefish or just at the base of the tail, as with seahorses. Pipefish in the genus Syngnathus have a brood pouch with a ventral seam that can completely cover all of their eggs when sealed. In males without these pouches, eggs adhere to a strip of soft skin on the ventral surface of their bodies that does not contain any exterior covering.

Pipefishes, like their seahorse relatives, leave most of the parenting duties to the male, which provides all of the postzygotic care for its offspring, supplying them with nutrients and oxygen through a placenta-like connection. It broods the offspring either on distinct region of its body or in a brood pouch. Brood pouches vary significantly among different species of pipefish, but all contain a small opening through which female eggs can be deposited. The location of the brood pouch can be along the entire underside of the pipefish or just at the base of the tail, as with seahorses. Pipefish in the genus Syngnathus have a brood pouch with a ventral seam that can completely cover all of their eggs when sealed. In males without these pouches, eggs adhere to a strip of soft skin on the ventral surface of their bodies that does not contain any exterior covering.

* There is some dispute over the placement of pygmy pipehorses and seadragons in either the subfamily syngnathinae (pipefish) or the subfamily Hippocampinae (seahorses). I am using for my apps, the World Register of Marine Species, and they have placed this group with the pipefish.