potbelly seahorse #2, Hippocampus abdominalis [97K]

The smooth skin, distended abdomen, and skin fronds (small fleshy appendages on the head) characterize this female potbelly seahorse. The males typically have even more dark spots on the head and trunk. 

Seahorses use their tube-like snout to suck its prey out of the water in a rapid, almost imperceptible motion. The method of stalking prey qualifies them as ambush predators. Their diet consists of tiny crustaceans, small invertebrates, and even small fish fry-- whatever will fit in their mouth. A favorite food is mysid shrimp-- the same type of shrimp loved by their cousins, the sea dragons. They have few natural enemies, probably because their bony plates and spines make them unappetizing, and they are well-hidden on the reef. Crabs and large fish pose the greatest natural danger, and collection by humans is certainly a factor, considering over 20 million seahorses were collected in 1995, mainly for use in traditional Chinese medicines. 

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