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Hold Your Seahorses!

January 16, 2014

by Sean McCollum

One glance at a sea horse and you know why it got the name. (Their genus name, Hippocampus, is Greek for “bent horse.”) But sea horses—for all the resemblance to their four-legged, grass-grazing, land-loving namesakes—are fishes. And amazing fishes at that! They are captains of camouflage with armored bodies and talented tails. Their wacky adaptations make them wonders of the sea.

Where Sea Horses Roam
Like land horses, sea horses like grass. But they prefer to hide in it rather than nibble on it. Most species of sea horse haunt seagrass beds as well as coral reefs along warmer coastlines. There, they hang out and hang on by wrapping their prehensile tails around seaweed or some other support. Then underwater currents deliver their food—tiny sea animals and plants called plankton.

Masters of Disguise
Spotting a sea horse in its natural habitat is a tricky treat for SCUBA divers. These fish are masters of disguise. They can change colors to camouflage themselves, and feature bumps called tubercles (say: TOO-bur-kullz) that also help them blend in. They have to be good at hide-and-seek since they’re lousy at run-away. They lack tail and large anal fins that most fish use for power and speed. They maneuver with just dorsal fins and a pair of pectoral fins that look like ears on the sides of their horsy heads.

Look Ma, No Scales!
Sea horses might not be fast, but they are plenty tough. Instead of fishy scales, bony plates protect their bodies. This makes them less than tender snacks for most predators. Sea horses also lack teeth. Instead, they use their tubular snouts like straws to suck in plankton whole. Sea horses are ambush hunters, aided by eyes that can move independently of each other. They calmly lie in wait until a morsel floats by—and flick! Then a very simple digestive system—sea horses don't have stomachs—turns food into energy.

Cool Quotes

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have dome them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly ... who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

-Theodore Roosevelt

"The question is not what a man can scorn, or disparage, or find fault with, but what he can love, and value, and appreciate."
-John Ruskin

It’s a myth that writers write what they know. We write what it is that we need to know.
-Marcie Hersman

The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts.
- Paul Ehrlich

Nothing softeneth the Arrogance of our Nature like a
Mixture of some Frailties.
It is by them that we are best told,
that we must not strike too hard
upon others
because we ourselves do
so often deserve blows.
They pull our Rage by the sleeve
and whisper
Gentleness to us in our censures.


Today, like every other day,
we wake up empty
and frightened.
Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

“We are here and it is now. The way I see it is, after that, everything tends towards guesswork.”
-Didactylos in Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

"Do you understand how amazing it is to hear that from an adult? Do you know how amazing it is to hear that from anybody? It's one of the simplest sentences in the world, just four words, but they’re the four hugest words in the world when they’re put together.

"You can do it."

-Sherman Alexie, from
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

"It is blissfully simple to strike a savvy, sophisticated pose by attacking someone else’s creations, but the old adage is right: Any fool can burn down a barn. Building one is something else again." -Martha Beck

"Live in the active voice rather than the passive. Think more about what you make happen than what is happening."
-William De Witt Hyde

"The soul of a child demands these mighty passions, opposition and adversity."
-Isak Dinesen

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, 'I'll try again tomorrow.'"
-Mary Anne Radmacher

"That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time."
-John Stuart Mill

"The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you: they are unique manifestations of the human spirit."
-Wade Davis

"It is so easy to be cynical. It's an accurate reflection of reality. It's much harder; it takes a philosophical point of view, to be optimistic. You have to work at it every day. One of the joys of working with children is that they are still unspoiled by cynicism."
-Yo-Yo Ma

"Story means pleasure, as distinct from art; it would rather gratify than edify.
But stories also protect us from chaos, and maybe that’s what we, unblinkered at the end of the twentieth century, find ourselves craving. Implicit in the extraordinary revival of storytelling is the possibility that we need stories—that they are a fundamental unit of knowledge, the foundation of memory, essential to the way we make sense of our lives: the beginning, middle, and end of our personal and collective trajectories. It is possible that narrative is as important to writing as the human body is to representational painting. We have returned to narratives—in many fields of knowledge—because it is impossible to live without them."
-Bill Buford, 1996

"Adulthood is the consequence of decisions made by a teenager."

"Kids are not stupid. They're just short." —Jack Prelutsky