Seahorses are among the most unusual animals to inhabit the marine ecosystem. They are a type of fish but swim upright rather than horizontally. They have independently moving eyes like a chameleon, a pouch like a kangaroo and a tail that acts like a monkey’s. Arguably the most unusual characteristic of seahorses is that it is the male that gets pregnant, storing fertilized eggs in its pouch, which acts like a womb. The seahorse population is falling due to the various predators it has in its natural habitat.
Crabs are the largest predatory threat to seahorses, as both species inhabit shallow waters in tropical and temperate zones. Seahorses also tend to stay near the sea bed to take advantage of sea foliage for camouflage, where crabs have access to them. The bony structure of seahorses makes them an unpleasant meal for many marine animals; crabs are one of the few species that can eat seahorses.
Sting and manta rays have also been known to eat seahorses. Rays of all species, which are found in the Indian and Pacific oceans, come close to shore for mating and to feed. This puts them into contact with seahorses. Most of the time plankton is what the rays are actually looking for, but their feeding method means anything in the way will be swallowed.
Tuna, and other large fish, have been known to eat seahorses, although normally as a last resort. Strong currents and storms can dislodge seahorses, especially the young, from the seabed and put them in the paths of other fish, where they are picked off.
Penguins and Sea Birds
Sea birds tend to fish quite close to shore, so the seahorses are in their natural feeding grounds. Seahorses are not the natural target but get caught up in the feeding frenzy.
Far and away the largest threat to seahorses is humans. Pollution of the oceans destroys habitats and the food supply for many species. In addition, seahorses have been over fished, especially in Asia, for use in cooking and as an ingredient in medicines.
About the Author
Chris Rowling has been a professional writer since 2003. He has written news and features for publications covering insurance, pensions and financial markets as well as articles for local newspapers such as the "Richmond and Twickenham Times" and the "Hounslow Chronicle." Rowling graduated in 2002 from St. Mary University, London, and took a postgraduate degree in journalism.