Forget sharks, seahorses are the stealthiest hunters
The slowest seahorses can only swim at speeds of up to 150cm per hour.
Yet they can catch shellfish that travel at equivalent speeds of 2,000mph!
Researchers used high-speed 3D imaging to study how seahorses hunt. They discovered their heads are designed to move stealthily through the water and avoid detection
They are one the slowest swimmers in the sea but what seahorses lack in speed, they make up for in stealth.
The creatures’ delicate heads are designed to prevent disturbances in the water that would alert their prey to their approach.
This is important, as their dinner – tiny shellfish called copepods – can rapidly sense ripples and escape at breakneck speed.
But somehow, they are captured by hungry, but slow-moving, seahorses 90 per cent of the time.
Lead scientist, Brad Gemmell, of the University of Texas, said: ‘A seahorse is one of the slowest swimming fish that we know of.
‘But it is able to capture prey that swim at incredible speeds for their size. We wanted to know why.’
Dr Gemmell’s team used high-speed 3D imaging techniques to study the dwarf seahorse, Hippocampus zosterae, from the Bahamas and the U.S.
Writing in the journal “Nature Communications”, Dr. Gemmel said that the unusual shape of a seahorse’s head helps prevent waves forming in front of its snout.
This allows the creatures to sneak up on their prey without being detected.
He added: ‘It’s like an arms race between predator and prey, and the seahorse has developed a good method for getting close enough so that their striking distance is very short.
‘Seahorses have the capability to overcome the sensory abilities of one of the most talented escape artists in the aquatic world – copepods.
‘People often don’t think of seahorses as amazing predators, but they really are.’
Respect the “real hunters of the sea” the next time you see one!