The short-snouted seahorse, or Hippocampus hippocampus, is a species belonging to the genus Hippocampus of the Syngnathidae family. It is a benthic species that generally lives in areas with abundant algae and near the coast up to 60 meters deep. Its distribution range includes the eastern Atlantic Ocean, from the German coasts to the African coasts of Sao Tome and Principe, including the Canary Islands and the entire Mediterranean.
The body of Hippocampus hippocampus is typical of a seahorse and can reach sizes of up to 15 cm. The head is triangular in shape and has a tubular snout, inside which there are no teeth. Behind the snout, we find the eyes, which have the peculiarity that the specimen can move independently of each other. At the opposite end of the body, we find a prehensile tail that allows them to attach to rocks and algae in the environment. Both the pectoral fins and the dorsal fin are underdeveloped and adopt a fan shape. They move slowly thanks to a very rapid agitation of the dorsal fin, while the pectoral fins allow them to control vertical displacement. Their body is covered with a kind of bony plates.
The color of Hippocampus hippocampus is variable, but the base color is brown, with white speckles all over the body. Depending on environmental conditions, specimens can adapt the color of their bodies with orange, brown or black colors, which allows them to camouflage themselves perfectly, since they are slow-moving animals and would be easy prey for other predators.
The sexual dimorphism of Hippocampus hippocampus is very evident, the males have a more bulky and rounded belly, while in females the belly ends abruptly with an angle of 90 degrees with respect to the tail. This species breeds between April and October. After a dance, the female transfers the eggs to the male in a ventral pouch. The male may collect eggs from several females, and will incubate them for 50-60 days. After incubation, the up to 400 eggs that a male can carry will hatch and be released as fully autonomous juveniles. The life expectancy of this species is between 3 and 5 years.
Voracious predators, thanks to their eyes that move independently of each other, they are able to locate their prey. Among the preferred prey of Hippocampus hippocampus are small crustaceans and in general zooplankton that are captured by a powerful suction.Photos: