Three species of seahorses have been reported in Bermuda; the Longsnout Seahorse (Hippocampus reidi), the Lined Seahorse (Hippocampus erectus) and the Dwarf Seahorse (Hippocampus zostera).
Seahorses are rarely seen in Bermuda. They can be found in seagrass beds and algae-covered bottoms, where they wrap their tails around a plant for support and use their colouring as camouflage. Seahorses can also be seen on mooring lines and around docks. They are also found in floating mats of Sargassum seaweed. Seahorses are unlike other fish, as they don’t have scales. Instead they have bony plates covered by a thin skin. They also don’t have teeth or a fully developed digestive system. Seahorses eat small crustaceans and plankton by sucking the prey into their mouths and swallowing it whole.
The Longsnout Seahorse has a long snout and a narrow body. It does not have projecting spines, filaments or fleshy tabs, giving it a smoother profile than other local species. It can range in colour from yellow to orange, brown or black and is sometimes two colours. It often has small brown or black dots on the body and white dots on the tail. These black spots are the key characteristic of this species.
The Lined Seahorse also often has white dots on its tail. The back of this species is spiny, unlike the Longsnout Seahorse, and its snout is shorter – usually less than half the length of its head. The Lined Seahorse also has a thicker body than the Longsnout species. The Lined Seahorse often has white lines on its head and neck, and often has fleshy growths or tabs of skin on its head; these are the key characteristics of this species. The body colour can be grey, orange, brown or black and may include splotches of lighter colours. Both the Lined and Longsnout Seahorse are about 6 - 10 cm (2.5 - 4 inches) tall, with the largest specimens reaching 15 cm (6 inches).
The Dwarf Seahorse is quite tiny – the maximum recorded adult height for this species is reported to be 2.5 cm (1 inch). It has a short snout and can be beige, yellow, green or black and may have dark spots or white patches. This species often also has thread-like filaments attached to it.
Seahorses are interesting fish, as it is the male that cares for the eggs and gives birth to the young. The female seahorse lays her eggs in a pouch on his stomach. The eggs hatch inside this broad pouch and the father gives birth to tiny seahorses that swim away to fend for themselves.
Seahorses are considered globally threatened so their collection and trade has been restricted by international agreements like the CITES convention. In Bermuda, the Longsnout and Lined Seahorses are both protected under the 2003 Protected Species Act. The Dwarf Seahorse has not been seen in Bermuda since 1905 and is assumed to have been extirpated (become locally extinct).
Learn more about seahorses:
- Bermuda Biodiversity Project Species Profiles for Seahorses
- Bermuda Seahorse video clip on You Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKPoefkBzP8&feature=channel
- IUCN Red List Species of the Day: July 26th 2010 Lined Seahorse