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The Hippocampus is a mythological creature and has typically been depicted as having the upper body of a horse with the lower body of a fish.

Considerations

  1. Gills or lungs? Would this creature come to the surface to take air, or would it breath under water using gills?
  2. Would the hippocampus have one set of legs, as traditional mythologies have us believe, or would it not?

As this is a 'combination' of both a sea-faring creature and a mammal, I imagine some complications might arise in designing it.

How do I make a hippocampus anatomically correct while staying as close to the original mythology as possible?

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    $\begingroup$ Obligatory anatomically correct Hippocampus (on the left): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus#/media/… $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Jan 25 '16 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ Thought you meant this $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jan 26 '16 at 0:40
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    $\begingroup$ This is what a hippocampus would look like if it got fat. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Jan 26 '16 at 1:13
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    $\begingroup$ While I do like you've accepted my answer, I do suggest letting this and future questions sit for a few days. It lets more people vote, ideally letting the best answer go to the top! $\endgroup$ – PipperChip Jan 26 '16 at 6:16
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Gills? Lungs?

Both works just fine, such as in the lungfish. As you may guess, the lungfish is so called because it has lungs. It can breath air just as well as breathing water. This gives the hippocampus the ability to breathe in water and out of water, which can be a huge advantage! This is a great benefit for many organisms; if your water dries up, that's okay because you won't suffocate. If the water is hostile, due to predators or some other situation, you can just drag yourself onto land and can stay there for a while.

One Set of Legs?

Most biologists actually think that legs evolved from fins, which were used to provide a little boost to shallow- water dwelling creatures. A hippocamp may use these legs because they provide a boost in shallow water, help it lug itself out of the water (like seals do), or maybe even allow it to manipulate some things underwater. I'm not really sure where they are supposed to live, or what they eat, so I can only speculate on the uses of them.

It seems that their bodies would really work for surface swimming, because the horse legs don't have the kind of range of motion that you see in seals or manatees. It really seems like they need to tuck those legs in somehow, or just use them to keep their heads above water and use their fish-ends for actual locomotion in water. In any case, the hippocamp seems like a more realistic fantasy creature.

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It might simply be a marine mammal like a seal or might even be the manatee.

It would breathe air, but have extreme adaptations for swimming. The strong resemblence to a horse's head would have to do with the manner of its feeding.

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I don't think you would have to change it very much at all. An even seal-like coat rather than a scaled fish half. clubby fins rather than hooves.

I would say the horse head would mean it was a water adapted odd-toed ungulate so not closely related to the Cetaceans which are even-toed (whales are a sort of sea deer). The classical hippocampus anatomy reminds one of a mudskipper so by the rule of convergent evolution it would be a member of family Equidae adapted to swamps that occasionally dry out. It would be amphibious, in habit, but an air breather. Most comfortable in the water but able to make trips across wet ground. I think a dusty savanna would do it in.

Seafaring would probably be a push for habitat but it could be migratory.

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well, Maybe looking into Whale and Dolphin evolution would be helpful as they evolved from an Even-toes Ungulate (Horses are Odd-Toe Ungulate) so one of the transitional phases may be helpful.

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  • $\begingroup$ And their most recent common land ancestor is the hippopotamus, meaning water horse. $\endgroup$ – Anthony May 13 '18 at 8:26

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