What are Seahorses?

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What are seahorses?

Seahorses are actually fish, although they certainly don't look like the typical fish! They normally swim in the upright position, using small fins on their front and back sides. In an emergency they can swim by flexing their body somewhat, in the manner of more typical fish. They can also grasp seaweed or other structures with their flexible tail, and often "hitch a ride" on floating seaweed to travel great distances on ocean currents.

Seahorses eat plankton and other tiny floating edible bits of debris, also water fleas and tiny fish and such. They're usually found in shallow water. They have no teeth to grab their food with, but they have an interesting way of capturing it: Their close-up eyesight is quite good, and when a bit of edible debris floats near their mouth they suddenly suck it in. The action is so quick that a small "click" is heard when it happens.

Seahorses are strange in other ways. For instance, they don't have scales as most fish do. Their body is covered more in the manner of starfish: they have small bony plates just underneath their skin. They come in a wide range of sizes, from the size of a small fingernail up to many inches in length. Some can change colors, like the chameleon lizards, to blend in with their surroundings to hide from predators.

And yet another strange aspect to seahorses: It is the male, not the female, who carries the female's eggs. The male has a special pouch to hold them. After the female transfers the eggs to his pouch he fertilizes them and they develop in there. There can be up to 1500 of them! When they finally hatch they look just like tiny versions of how the adults look.

It's said that while the eggs are developing in the male's pouch, the male and its mate will circle around and around in the water and "dance" with each other, every day shortly after the sun has come up. No one knows why they do this. They certainly are odd and beautiful creatures.

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