How the seahorse got its (square) tail

20 Jul 2015 2min read

Team Discussion

Multiple authors

It may sound like something out of an Aesop’s animal fable, but the seahorse has an unusual tail. Unlike most other animal tails, which have circular or oval tail cross-sections, a seahorse’s tail has a square cross-section. Its tail skeleton is arranged in ring-like segments, with each segment composed of four L-shaped plates surrounding the central vertebra.

Intrigued by this difference, international researchers have looked at why the seahorse’s tail has evolved in this way. The answer it seems is that square-shaped tails are better at grasping – allowing the seahorse to hold onto sea grasses, coral and other objects in its environment. The tail shape also provides radial strength, making it more crush-resistant.

It is extraordinary to think that this remarkable little creature may hold the key to medical device innovation; studying the biological structure of the seahorse’s tail like this in the lab could lead to building better endoscopes and surgical robotic arms.

Image source:

Join the conversation

Looking for industry insights? Click below to get our opinions and thoughts into the world of
medical devices and healthcare.