The Mighty Seahorse Threatened

The Mighty Seahorse Threatened

“The mighty seahorse” suggests a massive stallion galloping across the ocean’s waves. The reality is that these amazing fish range from 5⁄8 inch to 14 inches (1.5 to 35.5 cm), and they are threatened.

There are 46 identified species of seahorses, and the scientific classification is Hippocampus from the ancient Greek for ‘horse” and “sea monster.” This fish has a head like a horse and eyes that function independently and can rotate like a chameleon’s. They have a pouch like a kangaroo and a prehensile tail like a monkey. Instead of scales, their skin is covered with boney plates, spikes, and lacy skin extensions. They swim in a vertical posture using their dorsal fin for power while steering with their pectoral fins. They anchor themselves using the prehensile tail to grab onto a fixed object.

The reproductive system of the seahorse family is unlike any other group of animals. The male and female connect face to face with their tails entwining, and the female impregnates the male by depositing massive numbers of eggs in his pouch. Then, several weeks later, the males eject up to a thousand baby seahorses who will drift with the current, eventually settling down on seagrass or coral or any fixed object on the seafloor.

Seahorses eat smaller forms of sea life, including copepods, shrimp, and fish larvae. They are themselves part of the food chain eaten by larger fish. Commercial fishing operations catch 76 million seahorses a year, and human exploitation has endangered these animals.

Human understanding of all the agents of change and balance in the oceans is very limited. The role of the seahorse in the functioning of a healthy ocean has only recently become understood. The ocean system has a complex influence on life on the land. As we learn more, the complexity speaks of a design that makes chance an unlikely cause. God’s design of life on Earth is clearly seen through what has been made (Romans 1:20). The mighty seahorse is an excellent demonstration of that design.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: National Geographic, April 2022, page 72-85.