Hippocampus erectus Perry, 1810, West Indies.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
Body erect and somewhat sinuous, with head at a right angle in relation to the trunk and tail. Snout moderately long, with small upturned mouth devoid of teeth. Eyes round. Two pairs of spines present behind the eyes on the head. Small pectoral fins with 14–17 rays; single posterior dorsal fin with 16–20 rays; small anal fin with three to four rays; no pelvic fins. Prehensile tail tapers into a slender stalk without a caudal fin. Trunk encased in 10–12 bony rings, each with four spines; tail has 32–38 rings. Coloration varies widely—background light brown, black, gray, or yellow (sometimes red) with various small blotches, stripes, and spots. Area around the eyes has small white stripes radiating from the eyes. Reaches 7.9 in (20 cm) in length.
Western Atlantic from Cape Cod (sometimes Nova Scotia as strays) to Uruguay. The extensive range suggests that the name H. erectus may be applied to a complex of closely related species.
Lined seahorses are found in habitats with heavy vegetation, such as seaweeds and sargassum, in shallow waters and waters as deep as 240 ft (73 m). Present also in bays, piers, beaches, salt marshes, oyster beds, and other environments in which vegetation and shelter are present. They are capable of tolerating great variations in temperature and salinity.
Seahorses swim slowly, in a vertical position, by undulating the dorsal and pectoral fins and tend to cling with their prehensile tails to vegetation, gorgonian corals, and so forth. They produce sounds to communicate with each other. Younger individuals tend to be pelagic, sometimes swimming in groups.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Food consists mostly of small crustaceans, such as copepods, amphipods, and larvae. They employ pipette feeding, after a swift sucking action following a sudden upswing of the head. They are eaten by many species of bony fishes, including cod, bluefish, remoras, and spiny and smooth dogfishes.
Between 250 and 400 eggs are deposited in the male’s brood pouch during courtship (the larger the female, the greater the number of eggs). Males develop brood pouches by about 3 in (7.5 cm) in length, and males with eggs are recorded at 3.5 in (9 cm). In courtship the male and female closely follow each other, and the male presents his pouch to the female’s genital area. As eggs are being transferred from the female into the male’s pouch, they both rise in the water and may change color. Breeding takes place in the summer or year-round in tropical climates. Females deposit a few eggs at a time repeatedly. The eggs develop in the brood pouch and may derive nourishment from secretions within the pouch. Eggs are pearshaped and light orange in color and may contain one or more oil droplets. Eggs are incubated for 12–14 days in the pouch; there is no true larval period; miniature seahorses are expelled, measuring about 0.24 in (6 mm) in length. Their tails become prehensile after one day, and they become mature after three months.
Listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
A common aquarium species whose commercialization requires monitoring.
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