Named for its black and yellow striped tail, the tiger tail seahorse (Hippocampus comes) is an unusual-looking fish, with an upright posture, curved trunk, and grasping, prehensile tail. The head, which is positioned at right angles to the body, bears a long, tubular snout, and the eyes are able to swivel independently. Unusually for a fish, seahorses lack scales, and the skin is stretched over a serious of bony plates which appear as obvious rings around the trunk and tail. The dorsal fin is used for locomotion, and two small, ear-like pectoral fins are used for steering and stability (2) (4) (5) (6). Unlike most other seahorses, very young tiger tail seahorses possess a reduced caudal fin, which is lost in adults (6).
Seahorses are masters of camouflage, and are able to change colour or possibly even grow skin filaments over time to better blend in with the surroundings. Rapid, short-term colour changes can also occur during courtship or other social interactions (2) (4) (6). The tiger tail seahorse can vary in colour from yellow to black or brown, often with mottled patterns on the body, and with fine white lines radiating from the eyes. The striping on the tail may not be visible in all individuals, and body colour may change as the seahorse matures (2) (7) (8) (9). The top of the head bears five distinct knobs or spines, often with a dark band near the tip, and there are double spines on the cheeks (2).
- Maximum height: 18.7 cm (2)