The Tiger Tail Sea Horse is one of the most sort after creatures we have here in Thailand, especially on the boats that dive the Similan Islands and Phi Phi islands. They can be torturous to find, ask any dive guide. Rarely moving from their hangout, you see it’s the movement of the animal which makes it easier for us to find them.
The Tiger Tail are fantastic at camouflage, they have to be otherwise they would surely be eaten in seconds by the predators on the reef. Seahorses in general do have a certain similarity to the horse’s we find on land, the head being similar to a traditional horse but that is it.
The Tiger Tail usually has a yellow body and on its tail, which it uses to hold its self in place on the reef has the faint black stripes that have likened it to a tiger stripes. Again, that is the only similarity between the two animals.
Recently I saw, on a dive site called Koh Doc Mai, a darker than normal juvenile, it was about half the size of an adult, I was very pleased.
No longer than about 12 cm in length, it is classed as a fish; however they are quite unlike most fish, as it does lack scales. Its head is set an angle to its body. Its mouth is at the end of a relatively long snout which it uses with great effect at drawing its tiny food particles. Its diet is tiny fish, plankton and small shrimp and maybe even some little coral polyps.
They have several fins. The dorsal fin is used for swimming, they seem to just fly along when they move, they also have ear like pectoral fins, which they use to guide them and also for stabilisation. The young tiger tail also has, unlike other species of seahorse, a small caudal fin (tail fin) which it loses when it reaches maturity.
They are able to change their colouring and they can even grow another layer of skin filaments if it will help them blend in better with their background. They can also change colour quickly, depending of course on its mood. Rapid colour changes can happen when the seahorse is, for example, ready to mate.
As previously mentioned, the tiger tail is normally yellow in its body, but sometimes, it is quite possible to a find black one or even dark brown one too. The stripes which are on its tail, are not always visible and the actual colour of the animal can vary over time as it gets older.
These sea horses are typically found in pairs, they like to hang out in quiet areas of the coral reefs, liking either the hard of soft corals which they can hang on to. The seahorse is quite unique in the fact that the male carries the eggs after fertilisation in a pouch similar to a kangaroo pouch. It is possible for them to produce upwards of over 1500 young or more at any one time. The gestation period normally lasts about 4 weeks.
They are threatened due to the excessive abuse form the Asian market. The Chinese believe that they have a medicinal purpose, which has yet to be proved. Upwards of nearly twenty millions of these poor defence less creatures are sold each year. However, recent times have seen much tighter control over the sale of these wonderful peaceful creatures.
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