Have you ever seen a seahorse swim? Maybe you haven’t, because they are always doing this:
Anyway, they are not very fast swimmers because they have tiny fins that they must rapidly flutter in order to move. As a result they often attach to a substrate or just float in the water column. These guys have to eat though, right? So how do they capture prey? A new study in Nature Communications suggests that seahorses are effective predators due to hunting style and a body structure that makes them create only very small hydrodynamic disturbances, thereby becoming stealthy.
Seahorses feed by jerking their head upward very quickly and using suction to bring in nearby prey. The trick is getting near enough to the prey without startling it, especially since the seahorse moves very slowly. The authors of this study used something equivalent to high speed cameras to show how seahorses approach their very tiny prey. Evidence suggests that the area around the mouth of the seahorse hardly disturbs the surrounding water, allowing the seahorse to sneak up on prey and capture it.
So next time you see one of these awkward, but very intriguing little guys swimming around slowly, remember that it is actually a finely tuned assassin stalking its prey. Copepods beware. Seahorses have a particular set of skills and they will use them all to find and eat you.