The lined seahorse (Hippocampus erectus) is a type of fish that swims in an upright position. They have an inflatable bladder that allows them to regulate their buoyancy, and they have tiny fins on the their bodies that they use to move around. Lined seahorses are the only seahorse species found in the Chesapeake Bay. Their range extends along the eastern coast of the U.S. from Cape Cod to the Caribbean. In the bay, lined seahorses live in grass beds found in shallow water during warm months.
Seahorses are skilled hunters, feeding primarily on tiny crustaceans. They have long, tubular snouts with no teeth that they use to suck up their prey like a pipette. Lined seahorses have many adaptations that allow them to effectively blend into their environment and hunt prey. The stripes on their bodies and their ability to change color to match their surroundings make them almost invisible to their prey. Seahorses also use their tails to wrap around seagrasses, allowing them to remain very still and wait for their prey to pass by. In addition to crustaceans, seahorses eat very small fish, plankton, and plants. Seahorses do not have stomachs; therefore they must eat constantly to survive.
The lined seahorses at the Nature Center were born in captivity and they were brought to Maymont in order to educate people about the wildlife of the Chesapeake Bay. Seahorses are neither endangered nor threatened, but they are listed as “vulnerable” for a variety of reasons. Seahorses are not caught commercially, but are often caught as by-catch or intentionally caught to be sold as pets. Because this species lives in grass beds in the Bay, they are particularly susceptible to environmental pollution and habitat destruction. Bay grasses (submerged aquatic vegetation) are declining due to poor water quality, and seahorses are rapidly losing their homes.
- Seahorses have been around for about 40 million years.
- They use clicking sounds and dancing to communicate.
- Seahorses mate for life and perform daily dances to their partner to confirm their bond.
- Males incubate the eggs in a pouch until 100-300 young hatch and are released into the water.
- Baby seahorses are called fry.