The longsnout seahorse is native to the tropical and warm temperate areas of the western Atlantic Ocean and is one of the largest seahorses in the area, reaching sizes of up to 7 inches (18 cm). Color is quite variable (yellow, white, brown, etc.), but a distinguishing characteristic in this species is its covering with small, dark spots.
Longsnout seahorses are very poor swimmers and rely on camouflage and bony plates that cover most of their bodies to avoid predation. Like other seahorses, the longsnout seahorse’s tail is highly maneuverable, and it uses this tail to attach itself to seagrasses, mangrove roots, sponges, soft corals, or other places where it hides. Longsnout seahorses eat tiny plankton but are small enough and have sufficient vision to see and attack individual prey (unlike large filter feeders). Their heads are relatively large compared to their very small mouths, so they are able to concentrate enough pressure at their mouths to easily suck in their prey.
Like all seahorses, longsnout seahorses have an interesting reproductive strategy. Females lay their eggs into specialized pouches on the males’ abdomens, and the males incubate them until they hatch. Furthermore, scientists believe that some seahorses have monogamous relationships and form pairs that stay together for several mating seasons in a row.
Scientists do not currently have sufficient data to determine population trends for the longsnout seahorse, but most species of seahorses are vulnerable to overfishing. They are easy to capture and are dried out to be sold to tourists or shipped to some Asian countries where they are used in traditional medicine. They are also popular aquarium species. It is important for scientists to continue to study the longsnout seahorse in order to determine whether or not its populations are stable and what conservations measures might need to be initiated.
Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.