There are over 50 species of Seahorse in the genus Hippocampus, which is a name derived from the Ancient Greek words ‘hippos’ meaning ‘horse’ and ‘kampos’ meaning ‘sea monster’. Their most recognisable features are indeed a horse-like face and snout, and a curled prehensile tail, with their bodies composed of fused body plates. They are able to swim upright thanks to specialized dorsal fins, and are the only marine creatures able to do this apart from Razorfish. Even the Seahorse’s close relative the Pipefish swims vertically. Despite this fancy adaptation the Seahorse swims very poorly so is mostly found resting on the seafloor, its tail wrapped around an object as anchor. Like chameleons, a Seahorse’s eyes move independently of each other. Famously, the male is equipped with a pouch on the side of his tail in which he broods the young. The female deposits hundreds of eggs into the pouch which the male dutifully carries until the eggs are fully developed, after which he ‘gives birth’.
Seahorses are endangered, due to overfishing and habitat destruction. Despite this, over 20 million Seahorses are killed each year for traditional Chinese medicine, with the false belief the Seahorse helps with impotence, wheezing and inducing labour.