The lined seahorse is a unique fish with a curled tail and horse-like head. It lives among bay grasses in the shallow waters of the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay.
Rings of bony plates cover the lined seahorse's body, which grows 5 to 6 inches in length. It varies in color from pale yellow to nearly black depending on its surroundings. Dark lines appear on its head, neck and back. Its horse-like head is held perpendicular to the body. It has a long snout with a small, toothless mouth at the end and a tapered, grasping tail without a fin at the tip.
The lined seahorse lives among bay grass beds in shallow waters in summer, retreating to deeper waters in winter. It can also be found clinging to crab pots, pilings or ropes.
Lined seahorses live year-round in the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay, extending as far north as Calvert County, Maryland.
The seahorse eats mostly tiny crustaceans. It ambushes its prey by changing colors to match its surroundings and wrapping its tail around an object to stay very still. It then sucks its prey into its long, tubular snout.
Few predators are believed to prey upon the lined seahorse due to its ability to camouflage itself within grass beds.
Males and females are monogamous, meaning they stay with the same mate for life. They go through an elaborate courtship ritual. The female lays her eggs into the male’s brood pouch, where they are fertilized and incubate for approximately two weeks before they hatch. The male then releases a cloud of 100 to 300 tiny, fully-formed seahorses from his pouch into the water. Juveniles are less than one-quarter of an inch long and quickly take on the habits of adult.