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 41 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 Name, Authority Common names IUCN Red List Status Profile Range
 abdominalis_fuchberger_SOTW_sm Hippocampus
abdominalis,
Lesson 1827
Bigbelly
seahorse
DD 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
DD 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
DD 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 NE icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl China
h.waleananus H. colemani,
Kuiter 2003
Coleman’s pygmy seahorse NE icon_iseahorse 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 NE Northern & Eastern Australia
h.waleananus H. debelius,
Gomon &
Kuiter 2009
Softcoral seahorse NE 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 DD  Pacific (Hawaii)
h.guttulatus_sm H. guttulatus,
Cuvier 1829
Long-snouted Seahorse DD icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Europe &
Mediterranean
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. jayakari, Boulenger 1900 Jayakar’s
seahorse
DD Red Sea to Pakistan
h.waleananus H. jugumus, Kuiter 2001 Collar
seahorse
NE  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 DD icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl Japan &
Korea to
Thailand
h.waleananus H. paradoxus,
Foster &
Gomon 2010
Paradoxical seahorse NE logo_eolGBIFurl  SW Australia
h.waleananus H. patagonicus,
Piacentino &
Luzzatto 2004
Patagonian seahorse NE icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  Brazil to
Argentina
h.waleananus H. planifrons, Peters 1877 Flatface
seahorse
VU  Australia
h.pontohi_sm H. pontohi,
Lourie &
Kuiter 2008
Pontoh’s pygmy seahorse DD  icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  Indo-Pacific
h.waleananus H. pusillus, Fricke 2004 Pygmy thorny
seahorse
NE  New Caledonia
h.reidi H. reidi, Ginsburg 1933 Slender seahorse DD  icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  North Carolina
to Brazil
h.waleananus  H. satomiae, Lourie & Kuiter 2008 Satomi’s
seahorse
DD  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 NE  icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  Seychelles
h.whitei_sm H. whitei,
Bleeker 1855
White’s seahorse DD  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 DD   icon_iseahorselogo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl  Gulf of Mexico

Seadragons

Photo Name (Authority) Common name(s) Red List Status Profile Range
leaft-seadragon Phycodurus eques,
Gunther 1856
Leafy
seadragon
NT logo_wikilogo_eolGBIFurl S. Australia
weedy-seadragon Phyllopteryx taeniolatus,
Lacepède 1804
Weedy seadragon, common
seadragon
NT logo_wiki logo_eolGBIFurl S. Australia
Phyllopteryx taeniolatus,
Stiller, Wilson & Rouse 2015
NE W. 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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