With the whimsy and heart of The Soul of an Octopus and the surprising details of the very best science writing, The Curious World of Seahorses brilliantly captures the ocean's most charismatic and mysterious inhabitant.
"When God created the seahorse," says one marine biologist, "he may have had one too many".
Of all the creatures in the ocean, there are none more charming and magical – or more strange – than the seahorses. Masters of disguise, graceful dancers, and romantic lovers, seahorses are found not only in the seagrass meadows and mangroves of the world, but also throughout the annals of human history and culture – surfacing everywhere from chess and Greek mythology to Disney movies like The Little Mermaid and Pokémon games.
Equipped with a pouch like a kangaroo, independent eyes like a chameleon, a long snout like an anteater, and a prehensile tail like a monkey – and complete with a crown on its head as unique as a human fingerprint – the seahorse defies easy categorization.
In this entertaining and informative book, science writer Till Hein shares the most tantalizing findings from the world of seahorses, opening up some of the secrets of these magical creatures of the sea. He reveals their intriguing biological features, such as their unique prehensile tails, their fins, and their lack of a stomach (seahorses only have intestines!). He speaks to experts about the fossil record of prehistoric seahorses, and examines their unique hunting strategy involving suction through their tubular (and toothless) snout.
But the most unique aspect of the seahorses is their reproductive cycle, as it is the male of the species who becomes pregnant. Seahorses have become icons in feminist and transgender male communities for the way they can reshape human cultural notions of masculinity and fatherhood.
Endlessly fascinating and charmingly approachable, The Curious World of Seahorses will captivate any reader looking to learn more about one of the most incredible creatures on Earth.
Originally published in German in 2021 by Mareverlag as Crazy Horse: Launische Faulpelze, gefräßige Tänzer und schwangere Männchen: Die schillernde Welt der Seepferdchen.
Till Hein studied history, German, and Russian before becoming an editor and a science journalist. He is a great friend of fish and has written profiles of finned creatures for over ten years, from hagfish to gray sharks to seahorses. He lives in Berlin.
"A quirky little book, the kind that captures the imagination. This is a deep and entertaining dive into the world of the one-of-a-kind sea animal, our fascination with them, their future in a time of climate change and their importance to communities around the world."
– The Toronto Star
"[An] illuminating – and sobering – overview of arguably the most magical creature in the sea [...] Hein exposes humans as horrific threats to these marvelous beings' lives and habitats. Readers will remain fascinated and, hopefully, concerned long past the final page."
– Booklist, starred review
"An enlightening deep-dive [...] A diverting look at an aquatic wonder."
– Publishers Weekly
"Whether speaking taxonomically, mythologically, physiologically, or historically, seahorses truly are a bit of an enigma. The Curious World of Seahorses covers everything most people know about seahorses and a whole bunch more you'd never guess about them. Each chapter helps the read explore and gain some insight into the everyday life of the seahorse, as well as tell the story of human fascination with the tiny horse of the sea. Definitely a great read for anyone intrigued by the marine world and certainly for lovers of the seahorse."
– Renee Becher, The Crowded Bookshelf
"Not just a compelling read, but also a love letter to the strangest creatures of the ocean – seahorses."
– Frauke Bagusche, author of The Blue Wonder
"This delightful book plunges deeply into the strange lives of one of the ocean's most enigmatic groups of fishes. From mystery to myth, history to technology, exploitation to protection, Till Hein's book should appeal to a wide readership."
– Jonathan Balcombe, author of Super Fly and What a Fish Knows
"An easy read, yet chock-full of information. Till Hein makes clear that protecting seahorses is a vital step toward healing the entire ocean."
– Daniel Pauly, principal investigator at The Sea Around Us and author of Vanishing Fish
"Every chapter in this book makes me more obsessed with seahorses. The slowest swimming yet most effective hunters in the ocean? Check. Eyes that can move separately from each other, fin color that change on demand, and a digestive system with no stomach? Check! A prehensile tail that is strong enough to latch onto an anchor and withstand a predator's grab? Check! Indeed, this book is a treasure trove of everything scientific, mythic, and magic about these remarkable creatures. Saddle up for a mind-bending read!"
– Wendy Wasserman, Politics & Prose