Learning About Seahorses

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A seahorse isn't a horse at all, but an extremely unique fish. It is named for its head, which resembles that of a very tiny horse. From its horse-like head, the seahorse's body tapers down to a long prehensile tail. Prehensile is a fancy word that means "used for grasping." Monkeys also have prehensile tails.

Seahorses use their tails for grasping underwater plants to anchor themselves in place. They hold onto coral and seagrasses and camouflage themselves by changing color to hide from predators. Seahorses don't have many predators, but some crabs and fish will prey on them. 

Seahorses also like to hold onto one another's tails while they swim in pairs.

There are many different types of seahorses and all are unique in many ways. For one, although they are fish, they don't have scales. Instead, they have skin. A seahorse's skin covers a series of bony plates that run from its head to its tail—including its neck, a body part that other fish don't have.

One thing seahorses do have in common with other fish is that they breathe through gills. They also have swim bladders like other fish. Very slow swimmers, seahorses move about through the water with three small fins. They swim upright, using their fins to propel them forward through the water and their swim bladders to move them up and down.

Another surprising fact about seahorses is that the male carries the babies. The female lays the eggs in a pouch, sort of like that of a kangaroo, in the male's stomach. He then carries the eggs until they hatch, usually two to four weeks later.

Many people think that these tiny fish mate for life, but facts about seahorses don't seem to bear that out.

Seahorses eat plankton, shrimp, and small fish. However, seahorses don't have stomachs! Food passes right through their bodies. That means they must eat almost constantly.

Luckily for these tiny fish, they are good hunters. They hold on to coral and seagrass with their tails and suck food into their mouths with their long snouts. They can slurp up food from over an inch away.

Reading About Seahorses

Books are a fun way to learn about any topic, including seahorses. Mix fiction and non-fiction to engage young learners. Try these titles:

Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle is a fun and educational story about how male seahorses are the caretakers of their eggs. Find out which other fish fathers have the same responsibility.

Seahorses by Jennifer Keats Curtis is a beautifully-illustrated, non-fiction book about the life of a seahorse from the moment he's born—along with 300 brothers and sisters!

One Lonely Seahorse by Joost Elffers will draw in your preschool students with its counting story that begins with one lonely seahorse.

Amazing Pictures and Facts about Seahorses by Mina Kelly will answer your students' questions about seahorses. How do they breathe underwater? Why do seahorses curl their tails? 

Seahorse Reef: A Story of the South Pacific by Sally Walker is a delightful, educational story whose facts about seahorses have been reviewed by the Smithsonian Institute for accuracy. This is a must-have for your seahorse study.

Seahorses: A Life-Size Guide to Every Species by Sara Lourie will prove an invaluable resource to older students. It features photos and facts about 57 different species of seahorses.

Other Resources for Learning About Seahorses

Look for other engaging opportunities to learn about seahorses. Try some of these ideas:

  • Use free seahorse printables to learn the vocabulary associated with and facts about these fascinating fish. The printable set includes activities such as word search and crossword puzzles, vocabulary sheets, and coloring pages.
  • Visit an aquarium. If you live near an aquarium, call to see if they offer a seahorse exhibit. It's so much fun to observe seahorses in person!
  • Visit a store that sells fish. You can keep seahorses as pets, so some fish and pet stores will have some that you can see in person.
  • Watch videos and documentaries. Check sources such as your local library, YouTube, Netflix, or Amazon video for films about seahorses.
  • Make a diorama depicting seahorses in their underwater habitat.
  • Make seahorse crafts.

Seahorses are fascinating fish! Have fun learning about them.

Updated by Kris Bales

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Hernandez, Beverly. "Learning About Seahorses." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/lesson-3-learning-about-seahorses-1834130. Hernandez, Beverly. (2020, August 27). Learning About Seahorses. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/lesson-3-learning-about-seahorses-1834130 Hernandez, Beverly. "Learning About Seahorses." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/lesson-3-learning-about-seahorses-1834130 (accessed June 6, 2023).