Zebra Seahorse, Hippocampus zebra Whitley 1964

A Zebra Seahorse, Hippocampus zebra. Source: Rudie Kuiter / Aquatic Photographics. License: All rights reserved


A tropical seahorse with alternating yellowish-white and brown to blackish zebra-like bands and stripes on the head and body.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson, Hippocampus zebra in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 Sep 2017, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/1539

Zebra Seahorse, Hippocampus zebra Whitley 1964

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Recorded in Australia from the Great Barrier Reef E of Shelburne Bay to Northwest Is, Capricorn Group, QLD. The Zebra Seahorse also occurs in Sulawesi, Indonesia, and Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. Possibly associated with crinoids, black coral or gorgonians in depths of 20-70 m.


Meristic features: Dorsal fin 17-18; Anal fin 4; Pectoral fin 15-16; trunk rings 11; tail rings 37-39; subdorsal rings 2-3 + 1.
Trunk length slightly more than 1/3 height; tail length about 2/3 height; head length about ¾ trunk length; males with deeper trunk than females, the depth in males is about 80% and in females about 60% head length; length of snout slightly less than half head length.
Subdorsal 3-4/0,1,0-0.5. Spine above eye of moderate length; nape spine small, directed upward; nasal profile straight; 3 small shoulder-ring tubercles or spines, upper two as tubercles, at level of either end of pectoral-fin base, none at gill-opening, lowermost as a small spine; lateral head spine low; trunk tubercles along dorsal and lateral ridges small to moderate in size, some enlarged and pointed, especially beside dorsal fin and on anterior part of superior tail ridges, becoming progressively smaller posteriorly.
Coronet of moderate height, with 5 spines at apex.


Height to least at 90 mm.


In life, alternating yellowish-white and brown to black bands, most transverse, some oblique or curved on the head and belly; eye blue with yellowish-white iris; chin yellowish-white, without dark bands; fins lighter; dorsal and anal fins brown proximally. In preservative - as in life, with alternating bands of white to brownish-white and dark brown to black


Carnivores. Like most other seahorses, this species presumably feeds by sucking small prey items such as crustaceans and planktonic zooplankton into its mouth.


Reproduction: Sexes separate, reproduction a form of viviparity or ovoviviparity, whereby the males give birth to tiny independent young. The female uses an ovipositor to transfer her eggs into an elaborate enclosed pouch under the abdomen of the male. The male not only fertilizes the eggs inside the pouch and provides physical protection for the developing embryos, he also osmoregulates and aerates the embryos and may provide some nourishment until the offfspring are born.
Eggs: Not described.
Larvae: Not described.



International: Listed under Appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). As a result, the species is subject to the Convention, http://www.cites.org/.
Listed as Data Deficient on the 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened species. http://www.iucnredlist.org/search/details.php/40774/summ
Australian legislation: Marine Listed under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act 1999). http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/species/marine.html


The zebra-like markings may provide effective camouflage on black coral fans or gorgonians, as the species may mimic black and white basket stars inhabiting these corals.

Similar Species

H. zebra is similar to H. dahli, which has a much lower coronet and the upper tubercle on the shoulder ring is near the gill opening.


From the Greek ippos = horse and kampe = curvature. The specific name zebra refers to the black and white striped markings of this species.

Species Citation

Hippocampus zebra Whitley 1964, Rec. Aust. Mus. 26(5): 164, Pl. 8, off Gillett Cay, Swain Reefs, Queensland, Australia.


Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson

Zebra Seahorse, Hippocampus zebra Whitley 1964


Hoese, D.F., D.J. Bray, J.R. Paxton & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. (eds.) Zoological catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia, 2178 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Seahorses, Pipefishes and their Relatives. TMC Publishing, Chorleywood, UK, 240 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2001. Revision of the Australian Seahorse of the genus Hippocampus (Syngnathiformes: Syngnathidae) with descriptions of nine new species. Rec. Aust. Mus. 53: 293-340.

Lourie S.A., A.C.J. Vincent & H.J. Hall. 1999. Seahorses: an identification guide to the world's species and their conservation. Project Seahorse. London, UK. 214 pp.

Pogonoski, J.J., D.A. Pollard & J.R. Paxton. 2002. Conservation Overview and Action Plan for Australian Threatened and Potentially Threatened Marine and Estuarine Fishes. Canberra, Environment Australia, 375 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282080

Conservation:EPBC Act Marine Listed

Conservation:IUCN Data Deficient; CITES Listed

Depth:20-70 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:Height 9 cm

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map