South Australian waters are home to a huge range of fish – including the fabulous seahorse. Here’s where they live.
Seahorses are a species of fish, and just like their cousin the leafy sea dragon, the male carries the eggs until they hatch as tiny seahorses. If you want to get science-y, seahorses, sea dragons and pipefish are all in the same family, called syngnathidae.
The seahorse has a unique shape – with their bent necks and snouts they do resemble tiny horses. But they are definitely not as fast. In fact, they are one of the slowest swimmers in the ocean.
Luckily for them this isn’t a big deal, as seahorses tend to anchor themselves to seagrass or seaweed with their prehensile tails, and they’re masters of camouflage.
There are around 50 seahorse species across the world, and only two of the coolest are well-known to grace South Australia’s seas.
Here’s where a super observant snorkeler can spot them across the state:
1. Short-snouted seahorse
As its name suggests, this seahorse’s snout is short. And they’re short overall too – they only grow to a tiny 10 centimetres tall.
The species are known to bop around Venus Bay and Denial Bay on the Eyre Peninsula. They can be found clinging to drifting or anchored seaweed.
2. Potbelly seahorse
While a big belly for us means it’s time to back off the carbs, for the potbelly seahorse it’s life as usual. The potbelly is one of the largest seahorses, growing to 35cm tall.
This seahorse hooks its tail around a sea sponge or seaweed, and snacks on any shrimp or crustacean that drifts by. Potbellies can be brown, purple, orange or yellow with distinctive black spots.
Potbelly seahorses are only found in the Southern Ocean, from the Great Australian Bight through to Tasmania and New Zealand.
While you will need a keen eye to spot SA’s two popular seahorse species, the state has many seadragons and pipefish, and some species are only found in our waters. Stay-tuned for our next syngnathidae blog.
Did you know that baby seahorses are known as fry? Read more about baby marine animals you can see in SA.
(Main image courtesy of Andrea McIntyre)