Seahorses & seadragons

Hippocampus reidi (Photo by Melissa Rushby/Guylian Seahorses of the World)

Many people are unaware that seahorses and seadragons are in fact fish. They have evolved some interesting adaptations to life in the sea.  The combination of a horse-like snout (for sneaking up on small crustaceans), bony plates (to protect them against predators), and in the case of seahorses, a prehensile tail that allows them to cling to seagrasses, corals, and other holdfasts in ocean currents, has enabled these slow-swimming animals to survive for millions of years.

There are 44 recognised species of seahorses. Given their superior camouflage and the subtle differences between some species, taxonomists have long struggled on delineating and identifying them based on appearance alone. The rise of genomics and other molecular techniques will hopefully shed light on this matter and eventually provide a much clearer picture.

The seadragons consist of only two recognized species, the weedy seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) and the leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques). They are more mobile than seahorses and tend to orient at a more horizontal angle than their cousins.

Check out the profiles of the species we currently recognize below (Lourie et al, 2016).

The Seahorses (Hippocampus spp.)

Photo Scientific Name
Common Name IUCN Red List Status Profile Range
 abdominalis_fuchberger_SOTW_sm Hippocampus
abdominalis 
Lesson, 1827
Bigbelly
seahorse
LC icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Australia &
New Zealand
h.algiricus_sm H. algiricus Kaup, 1856 West African
seahorse
VU icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl W. Africa
h.angustus_sm H. angustus Gunther, 1870 Narrow-bellied
seahorse
LC icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl N. Australia
h.barbouri_sm H. barbouri   Jordan &
Richardson, 1908
Barbour’s
seahorse
VU icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Indo-Pacific
h.bargibanti_sm H. bargibanti
Whitley, 1970
Bargibant’s pygmy seahorse DD icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Indo-Pacific
h.breviceps_sm H. breviceps  Peters, 1869 Short-head
seahorse
LC icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl S. Australia
h.camelopardalis_sm H. camelopardalis,
Bianconi, 1854
Giraffe
seahorse
DD icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl W. Indian Ocean
capensis H. capensis Boulenger, 1900 Cape seahorse EN icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl S. Africa
h.waleananus H. casscsio
Zhang, Qin, Whang & Lin, 2016
Beibu Bay seahorse DD logo_wikiGBIFurl China
h.waleananus H. colemani
Kuiter, 2003
Coleman’s pygmy seahorse DD icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Indo-Pacific
h.comes_sm H. comes        Cantor, 1849 Tiger-tail
seahorse
VU icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl SE Asia
h.coronatus_sm H. coronatus
Temminck &
Schlegel, 1850
Crowned seahorse DD icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Japan &
South Korea
h.waleananus H. dahli
Ogilby, 1908
Lowcrown seahorse LC logo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Northern & Eastern Australia
h.waleananus H. debelius
Gomon &
Kuiter, 2009
Softcoral seahorse DD icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Red Sea
h.denise_sm H. denise
Lourie &
Randall, 2003
Denise’s pygmy seahorse DD icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Indo-Pacific
h.erectus_sm H. erectus
Perry, 1810
Lined
seahorse
VU icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl W. Atlantic
h.waleananus H. fisheri        Jordan & Evermann, 1903 Fisher’s seahorse  LC icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  Pacific (Hawaii)
h.guttulatus_sm H. guttulatus
Cuvier, 1829
Long-snouted seahorse DD icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Europe &
Mediterranean
h.waleananus H. haema
Han, Kim, Kai & Senou, 2017
Korean seahorse NE logo_wikiGBIF Korea & Japan
h.hippocampus_sm H. hippocampus
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Short-snouted seahorse DD icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Mediterranean,
W. Atlantic
h.histrix_sm H. histrix
Kaup, 1856
Thorny
seahorse
 VU  icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl W. Indian Ocean
to Central Pacific
h.ingens_sm H. ingens
Girard, 1858
Pacific
seahorse
VU  icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl California to
Peru
h.waleananus H. japapigu
Short, Smith, Motomura, Harasti & Hamilton, 2018
Japan pig pygmy seahorse NE Japan
h.waleananus H. jayakari Boulenger, 1900 Jayakar’s
seahorse
LC icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Red Sea to Pakistan
h.waleananus H. jugumus    Kuiter, 2001 Collar
seahorse
DD icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  Australia
h.kelloggi_sm H. kelloggi
Jordan &
Snyder, 1901
Great
seahorse
 VU icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Indo-Pacific to
E. Africa to
China &
Australia
h.kuda_sm H. kuda
Bleeker, 1852
Spotted
seahorse
 VU icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Indo-Pacific
h.minotaur_sm H. minotaur
Gomon, 1997
Bullneck seahorse DD icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  S. Australia
 h.mohnikei_sm H. mohnikei
Bleeker, 1853
Japanese seahorse VU icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Japan &
Korea to
Thailand
h.waleananus H. paradoxus
Foster &
Gomon, 201
Paradoxical seahorse DD logo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  SW Australia
h.waleananus H. patagonicus
Piacentino &
Luzzatto, 2004
Patagonian seahorse VU icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  Brazil to
Argentina
h.waleananus H. planifrons Peters, 1877 Flatface
seahorse
LC  logo_wikilogo_eolGBIF  Australia
h.pontohi_sm H. pontohi
Lourie &
Kuiter, 2008
Pontoh’s pygmy seahorse LC  icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  Indo-Pacific
h.waleananus H. pusillus     Fricke, 2004 Pygmy thorny
seahorse
DD icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  New Caledonia
h.reidi H. reidi           Ginsburg, 1933 Slender seahorse NT  icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  North Carolina
to Brazil
h.waleananus  H. satomiae   Lourie & Kuiter, 2008 Satomi’s
seahorse
DD icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  Indo-Pacific
 h.sindonis_sm H. sindonis
Jordan &
Snyder, 1901
Sindo’s
seahorse
LC
 icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  Japan
h.spinosissimus_sm H. spinosissimus Weber, 1913 Hedgehog seahorse VU  icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  Indo-Pacific
h.subelongatus_sm H. subelongatus Castelnau, 1873 West Australian seahorse DD  icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  W. Australia
h.trimaculatus_sm H. trimaculatus Leach, 1814 Three-spot seahorse VU  icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  Indo-Pacific
h.waleananus H. tyro
Randall &
Lourie, 2009
 Tyro seahorse DD  icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  Seychelles
h.whitei_sm H. whitei
Bleeker, 1855
White’s seahorse EN  icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Solomon
Islands, E. Australia
h.waleananus H. zebra
Whitley, 1964
 Zebra seahorse DD   icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  Australia
h.waleananus H. zosterae
Jordan &
Gilbert, 1882
 Dwarf seahorse LC   icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  Gulf of Mexico

Seadragons

Photo Scientific Name
Common Name Red List Status Profile Range
leaft-seadragon Phycodurus eques
Gunther, 1856
Leafy
seadragon
LC logo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl S. Australia
h.waleananus Phyllopteryx dewysea
Stiller, Wilson & Rouse, 2015
 Ruby seadragon DD logo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl W. Australia
weedy-seadragon Phyllopteryx taeniolatus
Lacepède, 1804
Weedy seadragon, common
seadragon
LC icon_iseahorselogo_wiki logo_eolGBIFurl S. Australia

IUCN Red List key: 

EX=Extinct EW=Extinct in the Wild CR=Critically Endangered EN=Endangered VU=Vulnerable NT=Near Threatened LC=Least Concern DD=Data Deficient NE=Not Evaluated

(Click here for a full explanation of IUCN Red List categories.)

A note on ‘Data Deficient’ species: Species that are assessed as ‘Data Deficient’ are deemed to have insufficient information known about them to carry out a proper conservation assessment. Although such species are not assessed as threatened, we may find out that they in fact are, once enough data is obtained.

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