jienne al haideri seema patel chithra rajasekaran david yang n.
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Jienne Al-Haideri, Seema Patel, Chithra Rajasekaran & David Yang . Seahorses. Introduction Overview of Seahorses Morphology and Behavior brood pouches, snout, body, tail, dorsal fins feeding, Sexual dimorphism Conservation Concerns Future Directions Summary & Conclusions Q & A. Agenda.

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Overview of Seahorses

Morphology and Behavior

brood pouches, snout, body, tail, dorsal fins

feeding, Sexual dimorphism

Conservation Concerns

Future Directions

Summary & Conclusions

Q & A


Order: Gasterosteiformes

Family: Syngnathidae

Genus: Hippocampus

Ancient Romans/Aristotle

Size Range

Marine 30-120 species

brood pouches
Highly involved male parental care

Completely enclosed brood pouch

Function: Osmoregulation, nutrition, respiration, incubation site.


Pipe fishes: simple, inverted pouches.

Brood Pouches

Sexual Dimorphism

  • Males/females differ in their external anatomy

Monogamous (mate for life; unlike most fish)

  • Dimorphism evolved from sexual selective pressures
          • Ex: longer trunks in females accommodate developing ovaries
          • longer tails in males aid in courtship (tail grabbing) and gestation (brood pouches)
        • Note: Seahorses still maintain traditional sex roles
Sit-and-wait predators


Rely on site (independently moving eyes)

Feed primarily on mobile prey—mainly crustaceans

Evolved from straight bodied swimmers (pipe fish)

Pivot feeding (2 step process)


S-shaped body increases strike distance

  • Main point: S-shaped body and sit-and-wait strategy evolved for better feeding
elongated snout

various snout dimensions depending on species

snout length/width differences with age

pivots head to lessen distance from their snout to the prey

lift angles allow for a greater distance to be covered by the mouth


Short-snouted Seahorse 

Leafy Seadragon

body covering
lack scales

Body Armor: thin layer of skin covering several bony plates

Trunk rings and coronet

Coronet: "crown" structure positioned at head (equivalent to human thumbprint)

Camouflage used as a defense mechanism and predatory strategy (ex. Dragon Seahorse)

Armor makes them unappetizing prey

Body Covering
Specialized prehensile (grasping) tail

Evolution of bent tail

Change in regulation of growth and development

Daily life

Attached to algae and corals

Social Behavior

dorsal fin
Highly specialized oscillations

High frequency median fin propulsion (unusual)

Habitat selected for high degree of maneuverability

Complex, obstacle-strewn environment

Dorsal Fin
conservation issues
Simultaneous prey and predator

Economic value

Chinese medicinaluses

50% decline in naturalpopulations

Vulnerable due to behavior

Live in endangered environments

By-catch (e.g., Shrimp Trawlers)

Conservation Issues
future research and directions
Evolutionary history is still controversial

Mystery of bending tail evolution

Phylogenetic relationships are poorly understood

Difficult to culture seahorses due to lack of information/data

Indicator species?

Future Research and Directions
Anthropogenic pressures need to be lifted

Overexploitation in target fisheries

Threats from habitat degradation

Exceptionally unique

Unique reproduction (male pregnancy)

Drastically changed the fish body plan

Vertical swimming style

They need protection!

Dramatic declines worldwide

Biggest predator is man