How do sea­horses hunt?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Our Wild World -

ASea­horses may ap­pear lethar­gic, but are in fact ul­ti­mate stealth hun­ters, per­fectly adapted to hunt fast-mov­ing cope­pod crus­taceans. They are slow swim­mers and no match for their ag­ile prey, so in­stead they adopt a sit-and-wait strat­egy. Typ­i­cally found in shel­tered, shal­low waters, such as sea­grass beds, they use their tails to an­chor them­selves to the veg­e­ta­tion and blend into their sur­round­ings by em­ploy­ing spe­cial colour

chang­ing cells known as chro­matophores. When a cope­pod ap­proaches, the sea­horse will drift closer, un­de­tected. Its elon­gated head min­imises dis­tur­bance to the wa­ter, ef­fec­tively ren­der­ing it silent. Once in range, it per­forms a rapid head ro­ta­tion to snatch its prey, suck­ing it into its tooth­less mouth. This am­bush tech­nique works well for sea­horses, which have a re­duced stom­ach ca­pac­ity and need to feed reg­u­larly.

Laurie Jack­son

Silent killer: a longsnoute­d sea­horse clings to eel­grass us­ing its tail, be­fore sneak­ily drift­ing to­wards its prey.

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