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Lined Seahorse

Hippocampus erectus

The lined seahorse varies in color from pale yellow to nearly black, depending on its surroundings. It also has dark lines on the head, neck and back. (brian.gratwicke/Flickr)
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The lined seahorse varies in color from pale yellow to nearly black, depending on its surroundings. It also has dark lines on the head, neck and back. (brian.gratwicke/Flickr)

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.

Appearance:

  • Rings of bony plates covering the body
  • Varies in color from pale yellow to nearly black, depending on its surroundings
  • Dark lines on the head, neck and back
  • Horse-like head that is held perpendicular to the body
  • Tapered, grasping tail without a fin at the tip
  • Long snout with a small, toothless mouth at the end
  • Grows 5-6 inches long

Habitat:

  • Lives among bay grass beds in shallow waters in summer
  • Can also be found clinging to crab pots, pilings or ropes
  • Retreats to deeper waters in winter

Range:

  • Lives year-round in the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay, extending as far north as Calvert County, Maryland

Feeding:

  • Eats mostly tiny crustaceans
  • 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.

Predators:

  • Believed to have few predators due to its ability to camouflage itself within grass beds

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • 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
  • The male incubates the eggs for approximately two weeks before they hatch. He then releases a cloud of 100-300 tiny, fully-formed seahorses from his pouch into the water.

  • Juveniles are less than one-quarter of an inch long. They quickly take on the habits of adult.

Other Facts:

  • The only seahorse that lives in the Chesapeake Bay
  • Poor swimmers that rely on their camouflage ability to hide from predators and conceal themselves from prey. They blend in so well that it is often difficult for scientists to find them for studies.
  • Closely related to pipefish

Sources and Additional Information:




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