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Seahorses' strange shape explained

26 January 2011 Last updated at 11:45 GMT

A seahorse's strange and beautiful shape may have evolved to allow it to "suck in" prey.

Scientists used mathematical models and this high-speed footage to study how a seahorse's head moves when it strikes at the tiny marine creatures it feeds on.

As it rotates its head upward towards a passing crustacean, its curved body helps it to move its mouth forward, allowing it to strike from further away.

Seahorses evolved from straight-bodied pipefish and the researchers say the evolution of this "newer" shape aided their a "more cryptic" way of hunting - allowing them to hook onto seagrass beds with their tails and wait for prey to pass within striking distance.

Footage courtesy of Sam Van Wassenbergh, University of Antwerp