How Long Do Seahorses Live?

Seahorses live for a few years at maximum. How does their environment affect their lifespan?

Table of Contents

What father gives birth to his kids?

A seahorse father! Although seahorses look nothing like fish, they are a group of fish species related to pipefish, and have gills and swim bladder . These fascinating creatures are marvels of the sea, even with their short lifespan. However, we only know about the lifespan of seahorses kept in captivity. We are yet to gather enough data to know how long seahorses live in the wild.

Spot the seahorse! Seahorses are masters in blending in
Spot the seahorse! Seahorses are masters in blending in, Credit: Wikimedia/Avoini

How long do seahorses live?

Very often, we can observe that larger animals live longer than smaller ones. Take the examples of an elephant and a mouse. While an elephant can live for almost seventy years, a mouse lives for a couple of years at maximum. Similarly, the smallest species of seahorse live for just a year, while the larger species live for three to five years. However, these data comes only from seahorses kept in captivity . Although there is a lack of data about the lifespan of wild seahorses, we are very much aware of the threats that loom over them.

A pregnant male seahorse
A pregnant male seahorse, Credit: Wikimedia/Sylke Rohrlach

What dangers do seahorses face?

Like most fish, seahorses do not parent their offspring. Instead, the infants need to fend for themselves against strong currents. The currents may carry them away from feeding grounds and into water with extreme temperatures. Since young seahorses have fragile body, they may perish in an unfamiliar environment. Infant seahorses have a survival rate of just 0.5%, which means that only 1 in 200 baby seahorses survive into adulthood. Seahorses aren’t out of the reach of humans, either. Every year, the traditional Chinese medicine industry hunts and uses over a million seahorses. Pet trades and souvenir providers catch another few million as well. Pet seahorses hardly survive for six weeks.

 

With such high stakes, the survival of these species depends solely on how many offspring a sea horse can produce. As a rule of thumb, all animals produce more offspring than what is expected to survive. This has to do with the availability of resources for every individual. If more offspring are produced, chances are that not all of the young ones will have enough resources to survive. Only the hardiest of the lot survive. With every passing generation, the offspring produced have better adaptations to survive the ever-changing world.

How many babies do seahorses produce at once?

Seahorses can produce a few hundred to two thousand babies at once. This is one of the highest brood sizes in the animal world.

 

Female seahorses deposit all their eggs in the brood pouch of a male seahorse in one go by inserting their ovipositor . Then, the male seahorse fertilizes these eggs and gets pregnant . The father barely moves as the eggs grow for two to four weeks. After this, the eggs hatch, and the hatchlings live in the pouch for some more days to develop further. Weeks of effort culminate in a spectacular birth process.

A female deposits her eggs in the brood pouch of a male seahorse, Credit: Wikimedia/Bae Jiwon

Hundreds of babies are released into the water in short batches which look just like confetti. A unique process, completed in a grand fashion. Don’t believe me? Then, check this out.

If we do the math, out of the maximum of two thousand seahorse babies, an average of only ten manage to live into adulthood. The competition is cut-throat, and a seahorse has its work cut out for it over its few years of life. Needless to say, the answer to the question, How long do seahorses live?, also depends on whether a seahorse survives into adulthood.

Readability: 67.1


Grade: 7.1

Glossary

Swim bladder: An organ that stores air and helps a fish to maintain depth while swimming


Captivity: Keeping an animal in a restricted space


Brood: Offspring born or hatched at the same time


Brood pouch: The organ of a seahorse in which the eggs are stored until they hatch


Pregnant: When an animal is internally carrying a fetus (baby yet to be born), it is said to be pregnant


Ovipositor: A tubular organ in a seahorse used to deposit eggs

Contributors

  • Anubhav Ghosh
    : Author
    I am pursuing my bachelor's in microbiology from Scottish Church College, Kolkata and the lab at my college is as close as my home is to me. My interest lies in molecular biology and cell signalling, and I want to be a professor when I grow up. I believe that what we see around has a fantastic science story in it. In my free time, I love to watch soccer. Writing for Smore Science gives me the chance to explore my take on explaining the science around me in ways that everyone can grasp.

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