Are highly specialized fishes of the family Syngnathidae (pipefishes and sea dragons). There are about 35 known species; the exact number is uncertain because, like chameleons, they are adept at changing colour to match their surroundings, which has misled some biologists into thinking they have caught a new species. They range in size from about 2 to 30 centimetres (1–12 in.) in length, and are most common in shallow tropical and temperate seas. They have tubular mouths, adapted to suck up individual small plankton. Seahorses swim upright with their heads at right angles to their bony-plated bodies, sculling with their fins. The tail is prehensile and used to anchor the fish in its habitat on coral reefs, and in beds of sea grass or seaweeds, and mangroves. Male and female seahorses form stable long-term partnerships. The female lays her eggs into the brood pouch on the male's chest. He then cares for the young until they have grown too large to fit in his pouch and are able to fend for themselves. In most species the average brood is 100–200. They are highly territorial and occupy quite small home ranges. They are easily disturbed and even if they were not in high demand, they would be under threat because of habitat degradation. However, seahorses are over-exploited because they are used in potions for folk medicine, to stock home aquaria, and dried as curios for tourists.
M. V. Angel
Subjects: Maritime History.