If you’re anything like us, chances are the most you know about seahorses is that they look ridiculous and that the dudes get pregnant. As of today, however, we wish we knew everything about seahorses – because it turns out they’re one of the deadliest, stealthiest predators in the sea. Go figure.
A new study published in Nature Communications by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Minnesota revealed that the very traits which make the seahorse so laughable – like its’ slow movements and weird shape – are actually what makes it so cunning. Sustaining themselves on copepods, seahorses eat using a method called “pivot feeding” (or what we around hear call “insane ninja sneak-attack feeding”), whereby the seahorse sneaks up behind a copepod and strikes before the meal can escape.
How can a seahorse manage this while tiny, and super-close to their prey, and in an environment which betrays their every action? Using holographic and particle image velocimetry, these researchers determined that the seahorses’ arched neck acts like a spring, launching their heads forward for an attack at an exceptionally explosive velocity. Their elongated head and body shape also means that the seahorse creates minimal disturbance in the water as they approach their prey.
It’s super effective: seahorses manage to bag their targeted copepod 94% of the time. We doubt even ninjas have that kind of success rate.
Although, if they did, we’d never know.