Physical Description

  • One of the largest of the 34 species of seahorses.
  • Classic seahorse shape with a large dorsal (back) fin and a prehensile tail that the animal uses to wrap around objects.
  • Seahorses have skin instead of scales.
  • Can be gray, yellow, gold, reddish-maroon, or brown in coloration.
  • Can reach 11.8 inches in length.
  • Females larger than the males.
  • Males often have a prominent brooding pouch.
  • Adult females often have a prominent dark spot below their anal fin and a taller coronet (bump on head) than males.

Range

  • San Diego, California to Peru.
  • Galapagos Islands.

Habitat

  • Lives in offshore waters.
  • Often camouflaged with black coral and gorgonian coral.
  • Found at depths of 33 feet or greater.
  • Can live in shallower water, even occasionally at the surface, wrapped around seagrass and algae.

Reproduction

  • Pacific seahorses reach maturity at 8-10 months.
  • Pacific seahorses exhibit a lengthy courtship dance that can last over eight hours.
  • The female seahorse deposits her eggs on the male, who incubates them for up to six weeks.
  • A normal brood is 60-400 eggs, but can be up to 2,000.
  • The male then gives birth to hundreds of tiny, live seahorses, which are miniature versions of adult seahorses.
  • The young are fully self-sufficient and can swim away immediately.
  • Breeding season is late September to early May, and males can brood multiple times in that window, carrying each brood for only 14-15 days.

Diet

  • Bottom-dwelling organisms such as mysid shrimp, plankton, and juvenile fish.

Predators

  • Pacific yellowfin tuna and bluefin tuna.
  • Crabs, sea urchins, great blue herons, and rays.
  • Heavily caught by humans as bycatch in the shrimp trawling industry.

Interesting Facts

  • Seahorses lack teeth and suck in their prey through their tubelike mouth.
  • Seahorses can move each eye independently.
  • The Pacific seahorse is nocturnal, only feeding on mysids at night.

Sources: MarineBio.org; UnderwaterPhotographyGuide; ProjectSeaHorse.org

Photo: Lorrie Blackard Friet