I have always had a fascination for seahorses, ever since I was a little kid and had myself a pack of Magic Seahorses, you know the ones, where you put some dried eggs into a bowl and added water. Those were actually freeze-dried mini seahorses that actually were animated, and were actually alive. That never ceased to amaze me. Now that, I’m grown, of course I had to get the same thing for my own children so that they could raise their own seahorses as well.
Seahorse eating tiny shrimp. © sabbath999.
How about real seahorses?
But what about real seahorses, are you familiar with those? I decided to do a little checking and find out the facts about where they live, what they eat and how they’re used today in modern society.
Where can you find them?
Seahorses live in tropical and subtropical waters, throughout the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. They like to live where there are underwater plants, coral reefs and the like. Normally seahorses will use their long tails to wrap themselves around plants where they eventually, together both male and female, mate and give birth to their young.
You won’t believe it!
Baby seahorse eating mysis shrimp. © Felicia McCaulley.
One especially unusual feature about the seahorses, is that it is the male who gets pregnant, not the female. During the course of their lives, seahorses will mainly feed upon sea plankton and crustaceans. Because seahorses don’t have true stomachs, they have to eat all the time as the food that they do consume passes through them very quickly.
They are hard to spot
Seahorses themselves are extremely hard to spot, this is because they have a built-in camouflage that helps them blend into their coral reef environment. They use this camouflage also to their advantage when they feed, by ambushing their prey, which float by within striking range. They have extremely strong suction in their snouts, which enables them to essentially suck their food into their bodies while their prey is still yet alive.
Seahorse eating mysis shrimp (watch the video on YouTube).
Millions are harvested for Chinese medicine
Although they are technically fish, they don’t have the capability to swim very fast. It may be due to this reason that seahorse populations are on the decline. Today, seahorses are used predominantly for Chinese herbal medicine ingredients. Nearly 20,000,000 seahorses are harvested each year for Chinese medicine. In addition to being used as medicine, seahorses are also eaten similar to the way you would eat chicken on a shish kebab skewer. The consumption of seahorses as food is mainly found to take place in China.
Keep as pets
In Western countries, where seahorses are not typically used for medicine or for human consumption, a popular trend is to keep seahorses as pets, the same way you might keep fish. A growing number of seahorse farms breed the fish in captivity, for resale at fish stores.
Humans harm seahorses
Currently the only real threat to the seahorse population is man. Seahorses have enough natural food in the sea thanks to an abundance of plankton and crustaceans, but due to the harvesting of seahorses for medicinal purposes, the threat to them remains high. An estimated 20 to 50% of seahorse population has been wiped out.
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