Riding the beauty of the sea!
Seahorses are one of the most curious among all fishes, with a very distinctive shape and way of moving, elegant but at the same time very often really "original" among fishes.
Their physical structure is vertical, allowing them to maintain an erect position. The arched neck holds the head forwards, with a characteristic form that recalls that of a small horse, from which obviously these creatures take their name, and an elongated tubular snout. Both the colouring of seahorses and their size vary according to different species.
When swimming, seahorses slant forwards in a more streamlined and hydrodynamic position. They propel themselves with a dorsal fin enclosed by a fragile protection and they grip onto algae or gorgonians using their prehensile tail.
The Hippocampus genus, which lives on average 4–5 years, belongs to the Syngnathidae family, and it inhabits coastal waters throughout the world, except at the North and South Poles.
During its life cycle, this species reproduces up several times per season: as other species belonging to this family, after mating, that is usually anticipated by a real wedding dance, the eggs are passed from the female to the male who keep them inside an incubation pounch for about 1 month. Just a little bit before the birth, the male has some real muscolar contractions that help him in espelling the little seahorses. Just born the little seahorses - who are a few millimeters long - are ready to hunt for food that they can find inside the water columns.
Acquario di Livorno hosts several specimens of this type of seahorse in one tank dedicated to them and situated inside the Tropical Gallery.
One of the larger species of seahorse, this animal can reach 25 cm in length. It lives in temperate seas of Australia and New Zealand on rocky bottoms, often covered with algae. The special feature of this species is the iouch, particularly big, and that gives the name to the species.
It eats small shrimp and other planktonic crustaceans that can find on the bottom: like the other species of this genus, the mouth tube-shaped is equipped with a "snapping technic" which allows them a suction movement that has few equals in nature.
Survival for seahorses
Nowadays all species belonging to this family are in serious danger of extinction due to several factors:
- Coastal development which results in the loss of their natural habitat and their prey, overfishing of these species mainly - due to their supposed healing powers in certain preparations of traditional Chinese medicine and the use as souvenirs.
Seahorses are listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of endangered species.