Seahorses

There are two species of seahorse in the UK, the Short-snouted Seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus) and the Long-snouted Seahorse (Hippocampus guttulatus), also known as the spiny seahorse. Of these species, the long-snouted seahorse is more commonly found in seagrass beds, where it frequently clings onto to seagrass with their grasping tails. It is thought that seagrass provides a varied habitat which the long-snouted seahorse prefers, whilst the short-snouted seahorse prefers more open habitat space.

With their unique body shape and strange swimming style, seahorses appear to be different from other animals found in the ocean. Despite this, they are fish, and share many of the same features with others more typical of this group, including gills, fins and a tail.

With a very slow swimming speed of only a few metres an hour, seahorses usually prefer to stay in one place. Using their gripping, prehensile tail, they can hold on to seagrass blades and resist ocean currents which would otherwise drag them into deeper waters.

A well-known fact about the seahorse is that the males are the ones to give birth to the young, however, less well known is the work of the females. These hard-working mothers can produce twice the number of eggs due to the time saved by passing the eggs to the males. Even so, seahorse numbers are low.

They are delicate creatures which need a safe, protective environment to thrive. Seagrass meadows are vital to the survival of this enigmatic animal.

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Long-snouted Seahorse. Credit Georgie Bull
Long-snouted Seahorse/Georgie Bull

Did you know?

Seahorses are able to look in two directions at once. This means they can look out for predators and prey at the same time.

Where I am

In the UK, short-snouted seahorses live along the southern coast in shallow, sheltered waters. They can be found in estuaries and in seagrass meadows. As a protected species, it is illegal to disturb a seahorse and licenses must be arranged before any searched for these elusive creatures can be made.

Found a seahorse? What to do if you find a seahorse on the coast.

Natural England works to establish robust information on the distribution of biodiversity so that changes in the use patterns of the marine environment can be managed sustainably. As an important feature of UK marine wildlife, records of seahorse distribution are vital for their conservation. Any incidental sightings of seahorses can be shared with Natural England by emailing the Seahorse Team, at: Seahorses@naturalengland.org.uk

Details on where, when, and without disturbing them, a photograph, are brilliant information to collect and share with Natural England for helping conserve this species.

Please remember, you will require a wildlife licence if you are planning to survey or photograph Seahorses in UK waters.