What's peculiar about the Seahorse body and how it determines the way Seahorses swim

Let's look at how the Seahorse body and the way Seahorses swim are unique.

We have to begin with the fact that seahorses are fish!

You are probably surprised if you don't already know that.

Seahorses are fish and they seem keen to rebel - doing things differently from the fish family it belongs.


New set of Armor

Fishes have scales. Scales on fishes make up a flexible armor formed by rounded overlapping plates of bone.

Doing things their way, Seahorses opted for inflexible armor instead. The scales are fused to form rows of connected hard bony plates, very much an insect-style exoskeleton. A thin skin stretches over the body plates.


Telling He from She

It is quite easy to tell male and female Seahorses apart.

The male Seahorse abdomen is not covered with bony rings. Instead, there is a soft pouch, very much like a Kangaroo's. This pouch is so extraordinary, it is a whole topic by itself.

Females do not have this pouch. The female abdomen is armored like the rest of the body.

Male Seahorses know where they are vulnerable as well. When caught, they often curl their tail up to protect the soft abdomen.


Changes Color Like Chameleons and Cephalopods

Like Chameleons and Cephalopods, Seahorses can change color and pattern. They do so to camouflage themselves in order to hunt and avoid predators.

Seahorses also use colors to express intentions and emotions, especially during courtship.

As they are covered by bony plate armor, it seems they have magical armor that changes color, further fueling their mythical reputation.

It is actually the thin skin covering the armor that changes color and pattern.


More  Camouflage Tactics

Seahorses are mainly found in coral and seagrass habitats.

Another amazing thing about Seahorses is some of them will grow skin filaments and tendrils, called cirri, out of their body to blend in with the background.

They also allow algae on their body to camouflage themselves even further.



You call that swimming?

When you know Seahorses are fish, you may notice the way they move is peculiar.


Seahorses don't swim!


Seahorses don't swim because they can't! Not the way regular fishes do.

How do fishes swim?

They shove water aside by wiggling their bodies and tails from side to side in a snakelike motion. To do this, a flexible body is required.

Seahorses can't do that. They don't snake their way through water.

Their bodies are completely stiff due to their inflexible armor.


Seahorse Fins

One reason Seahorses are classified as fish is they have fins. What sort of fins do they have?

They don't have pelvic fins, adipose fins and tail fins at all. Their anal fin is really tiny and its function is unknown.

What's left are two tiny pectoral fins on each side of the seahorse's neck/head region and a small dorsal fin, located midway down its back.


Innovative Fin Functions

In mythology, Seahorses with wings are quite common.

When you look closely at the Seahorse's fins and how they are used, you'll see the connection.


Seahorses FLAP their fins to move around!


They don't use their bodies to push water like fishes do. They flutter and flap like birds and insects.

The dorsal fin on their back is the one used for propulsion. The pectoral fins on both sides of their head are used for steering and balance.

They move forward by flapping the dorsal fin very fast - quite like a hummingbird - at around 35 to 70 times per second. This is amazing as it is done underwater.

The seahorse rolls and unrolls its tail to control vertical movement.


Underwater Ballet

They way Seahorses move is mesmerizing. They glide, hover and seem to just float by. Like underwater ballet dancers, every movement is graceful and majestic. The upright poise is never compromised. Hmm... they do bend forward when they want to move faster.

Here are two video clips on Seahorse swimming. One in the wild and the other in a tank.





Without knowledge of their fluttering fins, curious folks are left scratching their heads, wondering how Seahorses swim.

The fins are transparent and move so quickly, they are not easy to detect.

This is like the duck or swan situation. They swim so gracefully when viewed on the surface but underneath their legs are paddling like crazy!

All we see is Seahorses hovering and slowly gliding through water but they are working their fins very hard.

One more thing. Fishes are oriented horizontally and they swim horizontally. Seahorses won't even conform to this.

They swim upright and are the only fish that do so.

Aren't Seahorses full of surprises?



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Agalil Team



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