Re:seahorse life span

Pete Giwojna

Dear Amanda:

I’m sorry it took me this long to get back to you about your photographs, but I misplaced your e-mail address and have resorted to contacting you here on the messageboard as a result.

After closely examining the pictures, I’ve narrowed down the identification of your mystery seahorses from 22 possibilities to the following 3 captive-bred-and-raised species:

Hippocampus kuda (most likely)
Hippocampus reidi (slightly less likely)
hippocampus kelloggi (least likely)

Those are all large, smooth bodied, tropical seahorses with similar color patterns to your specimens, Amanda. To be a 100% certain of the identification, I would have to do meristic counts on your seahorses, but I was not able to count the number of tail rings on your seahorses from the pictures, much less count the number of rays on their dorsal, pectoral and anal fins.

However, I believe you can determine which of those three species you have by closely scrutinizing the crown-like coronets atop their heads at home, Amanda. For example, the coronet of H. kelloggi is medium-high, with five short spines, and a distinctive high plate in front of the crown. It is the only one of the three possibilities that has spines on its crown. The spines are short but sharp, giving its coronet the appearance of a five-pointed crown when seen from above. So if the coronet of your seahorses has those five small spines or sharp points, Amanda, then we can be pretty certain that they are Hippocampus kelloggi, and if their coronet does not have those five small sharp spines, then we can rule out H. kelloggi.

Both H. reidi and H. kuda have rounded coronets that are free of spines, but in H. reidi is rounded coronet is low to medium in height but may be quite large and convoluted (like a crumpled piece of paper). In H. kuda, the rounded coronet is also low to medium in height, but typically overhangs at the back, and often has a cup-like depression in the top; sometimes with broad flanges. So if the crowns on the heads of your seahorses are free of spines or sharp points, but are convoluted, then they are probably reidi; if they are free of spines or sharp points and overhang at the back, or have a cuplike depression in the middle, then they are most likely H. kuda.

So take a close look at the coronets of your seahorses, Amanda, and see which of the above they most closely resemble. Also check out the photographs of H. kelloggi, H. kuda and H. reidi online, and see which species your seahorses most closely resemble.

Best of luck with your new seahorses, Amanda!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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