During the summer here in El Coco, we get some really loved guests: Sea horses.
It is believed that due to the change in water temperatures during the summer they come to shallow depths which makes them more popular in our dive-sites. And here are some reasons why the sea horses are one of the most expected fishes when we dive around here:
1 – Appearance:
Horse face, monkey-like tail kangaroo pouch and chameleon eyes! Some people don’t relate them as fish and might argue about their appearance resemble more to a crustacean or even mammals. They actually don’t even have scales! But still, they are fish. Instead of the scale, seahorses have a thin skin stretched over some ring-like bony-plates.
Seahorses are masters of camouflage, changing colour and growing skin filaments to blend in with their surroundings. Short-term colour changes may also occur during courtship displays and daily greetings. Male and female seahorses can be told apart by the presence of a brood pouch on the male. Seahorses can reach over 30cm height in some species, and be smaller than 2cm in others.
Adult seahorses have retained only a subset of the fins found in most other adult fish, the dorsal fin, a tiny anal fin, and two tiny pectoral fins on either side of the body. They swim using the propulsive force of the quickly oscillating dorsal fin, and use the pectoral fins on either side of the body for steering and stability. They are more adapted to maneuverability than speed, and therefore rely more on camouflage to avoid detection from predators than speed for escape.
2 – Behaviour
Most species of seahorse studied in the wild do appear to be monogamous, remaining faithful to one partner for the duration of the breeding season and perhaps even over several seasons. There is evidence that some species are not monogamous (in other, polygamous), especially when put into a captive environment. Where they are monogamous, the pair-bonds are reinforced by daily greetings, in which the female and male change colour and promenade and pirouette together. This dance lasts several minutes, and then the pair separates for the rest of the day.
Pregnancy lasts about two weeks to one month, the length decreasing with increasing temperature. At the end of gestation the male goes into labour (usually at night), pumping and thrusting for hours to release his brood. Young are miniature adult seahorses, independent from birth, and receive no further parental care. Newborns of most species measure between 7 and 12 mm. Most males give birth to around 100-200 babies, however the smaller species can have a few as give.
3 – Conservation
Sea horses are not very edible for most of the species because of their bony structure. Some crabs might represent a predator, it’s not something really to worry about. However, seahorses are exploited for use as traditional medicines, aquarium fishes, curios (souvenirs), and tonic foods. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is the largest direct market for seahorses, but they are also used in other traditional medicines. Almost all seahorses in aquariums are wild-caught, while dead seahorses are incorporated into jewelry, key chains, paper weights, and other crafts. They are also threatened by the destruction of their coral reef, mangrove, seagrass, and estuarine habitats through human activities. Furthermore, many seahorses are caught accidentally (as bycatch) in fishing nets, particularly in trawl nets intended to catch shrimps.
One extra-reason: Costa Rica is a Sea horse
If you look carefully, Costa Rica’s map is actually a sea horse 😀