Tag Archives: Syngnathidae

The Amazing Sea Horse Life Cycle

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Sea Horse Life Cycle

From page 28 of "Sea Horse, run!" ©2011 by Tammy Carter Bronson

The sea horse has an amazing life cycle that begins with the courtship dance. Once the courtship is complete, the female fills the male’s brood pouch with eggs. Baby sea horses grow in the male’s brood pouch, and as you can see in my illustration above, the male sea horse gives birth. Depending on the species, one birth can produce about 1,500 babies. What a fascinating fish!

Sea Horse Courtship Dance at the Monterey Bay Aquarium:

[youtube http://youtu.be/zvGRVWGpdNg]

More Blog Posts About Sea Horses:

Fun Facts About Sea Horses

This post answers basic questions such as…

  • Where do sea horses live?
  • Why do they hide?
  • How do they move?
  • What do sea horses eat?
  • What is the largest and smallest sea horse?

Why are corals important to sea horses?

Sea Horses in London

Draw Sea Horse with the Dot-to-Dot Activity.

Label and color the Sea Horse Diagram.

Recommended books and resources are on my Teacher/Student page.

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Fun Facts About Sea Horses

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Sea horses are classified in the family Syngnathidae (pronounced sin-NATH-ih-dee). Every animal in this family is a fish. Syngnathdae is Greek for ‘fused jaws’ because the mouths of fish in this family do not open or close. About 330 species of Syngnathidae have been classified. Thirty-seven of these species are sea horses, three are sea dragons (Leafy, Weedy, and Ribboned), and the rest are pipehorses or pipefishes.*

Where do sea horses live?
Most sea horses live in shallow ocean water near land. Sea horses may be found in estuaries, mangrove swamps, sea grass meadows, or reefs around the world.

Why do sea horses hide?
Larger fish like tuna or red snapper eat sea horses. Sea turtles, sting rays, sharks and even penguins munch on sea horses, too. Sea horses hide from these predators by changing color to match their environment.

How do sea horses move?
Sea horses move slowly by means of fins that beat as fast as 70 times per second! The dorsal fin propels the sea horse forwards. Sea horses have two, small pectoral fins (one behind each gill) that allow the sea horse to hover or change direction.

Sea Horse Diagram

Sea Horse Diagram by Tammy Carter Bronson

What do sea horses eat?
Sea horses do not have teeth, so they swallow their food whole. Sea horses suck food into their long, narrow snout, but the food must be tiny to fit through their mouth. Sea horses eat zooplankton, little shrimp, and the larvae of fish, crab, or worms. Sea horses do not have stomachs either. Without a stomach, sea horses cannot digest food well, so they have to eat large amounts in order to survive. Sea horses may eat for up to 10 hours per day, and they may swallow 50 to 300 tiny animals per hour!

What is the largest sea horse?
The Big-Bellied Sea Horse (Hippocampus abdominalis) is the largest species. These sea horses may reach fourteen inches in length!

What is the smallest sea horse?
Hippocampus denise is a pygmy sea horse that measures about half an inch in length.

More About Sea Horses…

Sea Horses and Corals

Sea Horse Diagram for the Classroom

Draw and Color a Sea Horse with a Dot-to-Dot Activity

*My Favorite References…

Seahorses, Pipefishes and Their Relatives: A Comprehensive Guide to Syngnathiformes. 
Author Rudie H. Kuiter. TMC Publishing, Chorleywood, UK. Revised 2003.

Poseidon’s Steed: The Story of Seahorses, From Myth to Reality. 
Author Helen Scales, Ph.D. Gothan Books, New York, NY, USA.  ©2009.

Project Seahorse.
Author Pamela S. Turner. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, New York, NY, USA. ©2010.

Visit Project Sea Horse Online.

Weedy Sea Dragons

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Weedy Sea Dragon

Art © 2011 by Tammy Carter Bronson

Weedy Sea Dragons are widespread along Australia’s southern coast from Sydney on the east coast to the Perth region in the west. They are especially abundant in shallow, weedy areas, but “Weedies” have even been found as far south as the southern tip of Tasmania. Their color and leafy appendages vary depending on their environment and diet. Weedies can grow to one and a half feet in length, and specimens in captivity can live well over ten years.

The mating season for the Weedy Sea Dragon begins around October or November which is Spring in Australia. Following an elaborate mating dance, a female will lay her eggs on the underside of the male’s tail. The male Weedy carries 250 to 300 eggs under his tail, and the eggs hatch in about two months. The following BBC video shows the mating ritual of a pair of Weedies in their natural habitat.

Weedies are almost fully grown after one year. If the tanks are deep enough, this species will breed in captivity; as a result, Weedies are becoming more common in aquariums. Most specimens found in aquariums were tank-raised in Victoria. Wild adults do not adapt well to captivity and are likely to die after capture, whereas young, tank-raised specimens easily survive transport.

Sea dragons are classified in the family Syngnathidae (pronounced sin-NATH-ih-dee). Every animal in this family is a fish. Syngnathdae is Greek for “fused jaws” because the mouths of fish in this family do not open or close. About 330 species of Syngnathidae have been classified. At least thirty-seven species are sea horses, three species are sea dragons (leafy, weedy and ribboned), and the rest are pipehorses or pipefishes.

Weedy Dragon from http://www.abc.net.au

The vast array of brilliant colors (red, yellow, orange, blue, violet) combined with the lines and dots often exhibited by this species make the Weedy Sea Dragon a candidate for the “Rainbow Serpent,” one of the most revered ancestral spirits of Aboriginal folklore.

Example of Aboriginal Art

Recommended Reading:

Seahorses, Pipefishes, and Their Relatives: A Comprehensive Guide to Syngnathiformes by Rudie H. Kuiter.
Copyright 2000, Revised 2003. Published TMC Publishing, Choleywood, United Kingdom.

Ribbon

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My latest video demonstrates how I created my character, Ribbon, for “Sea Horse, run!”. It takes 6 minutes to view, but it’s worth it. You’ll see real ribboned sea dragons at the Minnesota Aquarium as well as the step-by-step process I use to draw, paint, cut out, and design a character for the book. As an added bonus, I’ll show you exactly where I hid Ribbon on every page in the story.

Ribbon is a ribboned sea dragon. Specimens are usually greenish-yellow like the sea grasses they hide in. Ribboned sea dragons are found in waters northwest of Australia. They can grow to be about one foot in length. Ribboned sea dragons are more tropical than their southern relatives, the leafy and weedy sea dragons.

     Weedy Sea Dragon     

Sea dragons are classified in the family Syngnathidae (pronounced sin-NATH-ih-dee). Every animal in this family is a fish. Syngnathdae is Greek for “fused jaws” because the mouths of fish in this family do not open or close. About 330 species of Syngnathidae have been classified. At least thirty-seven species are sea horses, three species are sea dragons, and the rest are pipehorses or pipefishes.