Seahorses are cataloged in the genus Hippocampus. The members of this genus belong to the family Syngnathidae. This family contains over 50 individual species including all seahorses and their close relatives the pipefish. Seahorses are found in shallow waters of tropical and temperate zones around the world.
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The name Hippocampus is first recorded in Greek poetry. Hippos means horse and campus translates to sea monster. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed seahorses were a gift from the sea god Poseidon/Neptune. Despite their fragility, seahorses were perceived to be a symbol of strength and power. There are three species of seahorse found in the Mediterranean Sea. These are the Hippocampus hippocampus or long snout, the Hippocampus brevirostris or short snout, and the Hippocampus fuscus which emigrated from its native habitat in the Red Sea. Many Europeans thought these equine-like creatures bore the souls of recently departed sailors, providing them safe passage to the underworld and protecting over them until their souls meant their destiny. Seahorse fossils have been discovered dating as far back as 13 million years. Here we will focus both the seahorse collectively and one specific species Hippocampus kuda also known as the common seahorse.
The common seahorse is indigenous to the Indo-Pacific. Twenty-three countries have confirmed the presence of H. Kuda ranging as far south as Australia to as far north as China.
Seahorses have been procured by Chinese herbologists for their purported healing qualities for centuries. Native populations throughout Indonesia and the Central Philippines also use seahorses as a component in herbalistic medicines. It is estimated that up to 20 millions seahorses a year are harvested to support this thriving industry. Over fishing has driven seahorse populations to the verge of becoming endangered species. The common seahorse is currently listed as a vulnerable species by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention). CITES has regulated the import and export of seahorses in this region of the world since 2004. Unfortunately Indonesia, Japan and South Korea do not recognize the trade rules put in place by the Washington Convention.
Seahorses are a boney fish. They are devoid of scales. They have a thin layer of skin stretched over a series of bony plates arranged in rings. Each individual species has a specific number of these rings. Seahorses have a cornet on their heeds. These cornets are distinctive to each seahorse. No two are identical much like a human fingerprint.