Human pressures on marine ecosystems have caused extensive degradation of marine habitats and several local extinctions. Overexploitation and destructive fishing practices are responsible for biodiversity loss in many coastal ecosystems. The definition of conservation programs in marine fish requires comprehensive knowledge on large-scale geographical distribution, while considering distribution/abundance patterns in relation to key environmental variables. Due to their life-cycle traits, the two European seahorses (Hippocampus guttulatus and H. hippocampus), as with other congeneric species, are particularly sensitive to the effects of anthropogenic activities and habitat changes. However, information on the ecological distribution of these two species is scattered, patchy, and mainly focused on small-scale studies. In this paper, we followed an international standard protocol for systematic reviews (the PRISMA protocol) to provide a detailed assessment of the two species’ geographical distribution in relation to the environmental characteristics. According to the 134 analyzed studies, Hippocampus guttulatus is more common in confined areas, while H. hippocampus is found in marine shelf waters. With several interspecific differences, seagrasses were the most used holdfasts of both species. The EUNIS codes (European nature information system) referring to a specific and unique habitat were discussed as a potential tool for defining the ecological distribution of the two species. The obtained results and their future implementation could help plan conservation actions.
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