It's not sharks. It's not barracuda. It's not bluefin tuna. No, one of the deadliest creatures in the sea is not a species we even think of as a predator at all. It is the seahorse.
Here, I'll give you a minute to absorb that.
Yep, the seahorse is a shockingly good hunter. It turns out the trick is in the very movements that make us think it is a harmless, cute, kind of clumsy critter. When we look at a seahorse, we see a creature that barely seems to move -- it seems to more drift, or float with the current. But that very slow movement allows it to sneak up on prey undetected, since it barely disturbs the water around it. Then with a lightening-fast movement of its head, the prey is in the seahorse's mouth before anyone but the seahorse realizes what just happened.
I F**kning Love Science writes, "Copepods are speedy little creatures that can zip away from predators after sensing impending danger from movement in the water. Because seahorses move so slowly, they are able to sneak up on them virtually undetected. Once the seahorse is extremely close to the prey, it is able to jerk its head extremely quickly and consume the tiny copepod. Their odd head morphology allows this technique to be successful, because it actually doesn’t disturb the water very much, kind of like how a boat moves through a no wake zone in a lake. This approach works an astounding 90% of the time, making the seahorse one of the deadliest predators in the ocean."
And fast is right. In this video you see the extremes of seahorse movement -- first moving so slow you're about to turn away from boredom and then so fast you aren't sure if you actually did see it move, you just know its prey is suddenly gone. Even in the slow-motion replay, the move is lightning fast:
And a 90% accuracy?? I don't even have a 90% accuracy rate bringing home the right groceries from the store. Seahorses have clearly figured out how to make the most of their movements. And who would have thought that such gentle, slow creatures could be so mightily fast when it comes to snagging a meal. Mind-blowing.
Also, now that we have your attention on these phenomenal creatures, it's a good time to mention that they are in serious danger of extinction. Learn more here, and in the following video that discusses first seahorse biology and then covers why they are disappearing at the hands of humans: