Re:Mustang or sunburst?

#5255
Pete Giwojna
Guest

Dear Sun Devil:

Mustangs and Sunbursts are different color morphs of the same species (Hippocampus erectus). As such, they have identical aquarium requirements, may interbreed freely, and are equally hardy. Sunbursts are a bit smaller than Mustangs on average, topping out at around 5-6 inches, whereas the ‘stangs can reach well in excess of 6 inches in length.

But they differ primarily in their coloration: Mustangs tend to be darker colored, displaying the dominant dark brown to black coloration that is so typical of wild erectus, whereas the Sunbursts tend to be more brightly colored, and typically display the much less common yellow to orange color pattern.

But it’s important to note that the Sunbursts are not genetic mutations that are locked into specific colors. Colorful Ocean Riders are not homozygous recessives nor or they mutations that are unable to manufacture certain pigments altogether. In other words, they are not like albinos that are always white because they lack the ability to produce melanin (black pigment), nor are they like lutino mutations that are always yellow because they lack the ability to manufacture any pigments other than yellow. But they do exhibit differential proliferation of chromatophores and this gives each type a predisposition to display certain colors.

Mustangs, for example, have a preponderance of melanophores (black pigment cells) and tend to be dark (earth tones) or cryptically colored most of the time. But ‘stangs also have bright pigment cells and they can brighten up when the occasion calls for it, such as during courtship or when competing for mates.

Although yellow and orange pigments tend to predominate in Sunbursts, they are equipped with a full range of chromatophores and can display a wide range of colors. This means they are predisposed towards the sunset colors (yellow, gold, peach, amber or orange) when conditions are to their liking. However, they have a complement of melanophores in addition to their bright pigment cells and are able to change their coloration to reflect changing circumstances and conditions. So yellow and orange are the most commonly seen colors in Sunbursts, but you also find them in white, pearly, tan or even brown color phases from time to time.

In short, Mustangs exhibit the normal coloration for wild H. erectus and tend to be darker colored as a rule, but will show brighter color phases from time to time. Likewise, Sunbursts tend to exhibit the sunset colors when conditions are favorable, but they also display darker color phases on occasion.

In a nutshell, Sun Devil, Mustangs get a little larger on average. They can be well in excess of 6 inches and I’ve seen many specimens that were a good 8 inches in length. So if size is your most important criteria, the Mustangs have the edge in that department.

When it comes to bright coloration, the Sunbursts have a clear edge in that department, so if a brightly colored seahorse is your main priority, go with a Sunburst.

When it comes to their sociability, overall intelligence, and personality, Mustangs and Sunbursts are equally well endowed. They both tend to be highly gregarious, and very sociable, and often have loads of personnel. So it’s a wash between the two types when it comes to those intangibles.

However, as you might suspect, seahorses definitely do have distinct personalities, and Mustangs and Sunbursts are no exception in that regard. Females generally tend to be more active and outgoing than the males. They will often swim around more and explore the aquarium to a greater extent than the males, which tend to pick out a favorite perch or home base and hang around in the same general area most of the time. Just like people, some seahorses are shy and retiring (introverted, I guess you could say) while others are real busybodies, that insist on being right in the thick of things and helping you out whenever you are working in the tank or performing aquarium maintenance. These extroverts will often perch on your hand or whatever aquarium utensil you may be using and watch intently as you finish your chores, apparently enjoying the ride and the company. Others will gladly interact with you at feeding time, but prefer to keep their distance otherwise.

The individual personalities of seahorses naturally extend to their feeding habits. Some are aggressive feeders that will boldly snatch food from your fingers, while some are shy and secretive, feeding only when they think they’re not being observed. Some like to slurp up Mysis while it’s swirling through the water column, and some will only take Mysis off the bottom of the tank. Some are voracious pigs that greedily scarf up everything in sight, and some are slow, deliberate feeders that painstakingly examine every morsel of Mysis and stare it down forever before they accept or reject it. Some eat like horses and some eat like birds.

So when you place your order, don’t hesitate to request the traits you admire most in the "Special Instructions" section of the online order form. Ocean Rider will do their best to select a pony that matches your desired traits when they fill your order.

Best of luck finding the perfect pony for your preferences, Sun Devil!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna


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