Voyager: How did seahorses get their name? Why are they called seahorses?


The seahorse is one of the most unusual and fascinating fishes in the sea.  It has an upright posture and a head bent at an angle. It has a strong tail that can grip objects. It also has a tube-like snout with a small mouth at the tip. The head of this fish resembles a horse and this is most likely why it is called a seahorse.

Seahorses are scientifically classified in the family Syngnathidae, a name that comes from the Greek words for “jaw” and “together.” Hippocampus, which comes from the Greek words for “horse” and “sea animal,” is the genus that seahorses are classified as.

The long, thin snout of the seahorse is pointed downward allowing it to probe into nooks and crannies to find its prey. Each eye can move independently so it can watch for predators with one eye and look for prey with the other. Seahorses feed on various types of crustaceans, such as shrimp, that they slurp in rapidly.

Seahorses are found in the shallow waters of almost every ocean of the world. They are found in sea grass beds, sponge gardens, estuaries, coral reefs, and rocky reef habitats. They can vary drastically in size and color depending on where they live.


-- Leslee Matsushige, assistant aquarium curator, Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

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