Plants and Animals

Video shows that seahorses are master assassins of the ocean

December 11, 2013 | by Lisa Winter

Photo credit: diko1967

When you think of the most deadly creature in the water you probably start to visualize a sleek, stealthy shark with rows of razor-sharp teeth. If we’re going by success rate, the master predator of the sea is actually the seahorse. The seahorse looks a bit unassuming, because of its incredibly odd shape that makes it an extremely slow swimmer. However, this shape actually helps it be a stone-cold killer, according to lead author Brad J. Gemmell from the University of Texas at Austin’s Marine Science Institute, who published the study in Nature Communications.

Despite the fact that seahorses are the slowest swimming fish that have been discovered by scientists, their diet consists mostly of copepods. Copepods are speedy little creatures that can zip away from predators after sensing impending danger from movement in the water. Because seahorses move so slowly, they are able to sneak up on them virtually undetected. 

Once the seahorse is extremely close to the prey, it is able to jerk its head extremely quickly and consume the tiny copepod. Their odd head morphology allows this technique to be successful, because it actually doesn’t disturb the water very much, kind of like how a boat moves through a no wake zone in a lake. This approach works an astounding 90% of the time, making the seahorse one of the deadliest predators in the ocean. 

Check out this video that demonstrates the (lack of) water movement as the seahorse closes in on its dinner: