How the Seahorse Got Its Curvaceous Shape

By Patrick Morgan | January 26, 2011 5:31 pm

If you’ve ever wondered why the seahorse has its elegantly curved body (aside from luring snorkelers into the water), wonder no more: it helps them hunt.

Researchers at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, led by biomechanicist Sam Van Wassenbergh, analyzed video footage of seahorses on the hunt and used mathematical models to come to the conclusion that a seahorse’s curvy neck lets it strike at more distant prey.

“They rotate their heads upward to bring their mouth close to the prey [passing above],” explained Dr Wassenbergh…. The creatures’ curved bodies mean that when they do this, their mouths also moved forward, helping to bring passing small crustaceans within sucking distance of their snouts. [BBC News]

He even has an evolutionary theory to back up his observations.

“My theory is that you have this ancestral pipefish-like fish and they evolved a more cryptic lifestyle,” said Dr Wassenbergh. [BBC News]

Unlike the seahorse, the related pipefish has a straight body and swims while attacking its prey. Seahorses, on the other hand, tend to hide out and wait for the prey to come to them. And according to this study, published in the journal Nature Communications, a longer striking distance is a big advantage for a couch-potato creature.

“Once this shift in foraging behavior is made, natural selection will favor animals that can increase the strike distance, which according to our study puts a selective pressure to increase the angle between head and trunk and to become what we now know as sea horses,” [said] researcher Sam Van Wassenbergh. [LiveScience]

Related Content:
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Pregnant male pipefish abort babies from unattractive females
Science Not Fiction: Electric Fish “Plug in” and Turn Their Zapping Into Music
The Loom: Dawn of the Picasso Fish
DISCOVER: Your Inner Fish

Image: flickr / oscar alexander

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World
  • http://WWW.kingofmount21.net Cora Iredale

    foundfor the most partwillhave the same opinionwith your blog.

  • http://www.discountedwheelwarehouse.com/Custom_Wheels.cfm custom wheels

    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I in finding this topic to be actually something that I believe I would never understand. It kind of feels too complicated and extremely broad for me. I am having a look ahead to your next publish, I will try to get the dangle of it!

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

80beats

80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »