Image by Two Oceans Aquarium

The Knysna seahorse (Hippocampus capensis) is the best-known species of the five species seen around the Southern African coastline. It is the only seahorse that is endangered.

Knysna seahorses are found only in the Knysna, Keurbooms and Swartvlei estuaries on the South Coast of South Africa. They are green to brown in colour and have the ability to change colour in order to blend in with their environment, making them difficult to spot and a rare treat when you do. They grow to approximately 12cm and have a head similar in shape to a horse and a tail similar to a monkey. During mating, they perform a coy courtship dance, whereafter the female lays her eggs in the male’s pouch. The babies hatch out of this pouch into the water. Some believe that ingesting these creatures will cure a myriad of health problems, such as asthma and skin problems. Luckily, there is a law in South Africa which protects these seahorses by preventing people from catching them or disturbing them in their natural environment. Other laws also prevent the importation of seahorses into South Africa.

Although they do not resemble your average marine fish, seahorses are classified as fish. They breathe through gills and move through the water with their dorsal fin just like fishes do. They use their dorsal fins to propel themselves forward and turn with their pectoral fins, while swimming upright. They also hatch from eggs.

Have you dived along the Southern Cape coastline and have you been lucky enough to see these special little creatures in wild?

5 FAST FACTS

  1. There are 30 to 40 seahorse species and the largest is 35cm long.
  2. The Knysna seahorse is the only seahorse that is endangered.
  3. Every year, 20 million seahorses are caught and used for medicinal purposes or as ornaments.
  4. The Knysna seahorse can move its eyes independently, like a chameleon.
  5. Seahorses suck small fishes and shellfishes into their mouths.

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