Seahorse Month

May 2016

 

For the entire marvelous month of May we are celebrating the wonderful world of seahorses.

Who could fail to be enchanted by these jewels of the ocean? Seahorses are beautiful and bizarre looking fish with fascinating lives; They are one of the only species in the world in which the father gives birth! Did you know that there are seahorses found living and breeding in UK waters? There was even a colony of Short Snouted seahorses found living in the Thames Estuary! Time to find out more about these magical creatures and what we can do to protect them.

 

Scroll down for  more amazing Seahorse  facts!

 

 

 

Seahorses

Seahorses are fish. Their Greek name is Hippocampus – Coming from Hippos meaning ‘horse’ and kampos means ‘sea monster’. In early Greek civilization, people thought that Greek Gods rode around on huge half-horse, half-fish monsters with legs and wings. They live in shallow waters, temperate and tropical, in sheltered areas such as seagrass beds, estuaries, coral reefs or mangroves. They don’t really have any natural predators as there is nothing to them, they are basically skin and bone and not nutritious or worth eating. They are not strong swimmers or in any way speedy because they don’t really have to worry about evading predators

Big and Small

There are around 35 species of seahorse known to science. The biggest seahorse in the world is only 35cm in length which is the big-belly seahorse, and the smallest is called the pygmy seahorse. The pygmy seahorse is just 2cm long and lives on a type of coral known as a gorgonian.

The big-belly seahorse can reach up to 35 cm in length and is the biggest species of seahorse in the world. 

The pygmy seahorse is just 2cm long and lives on a type of coral known as a gorgonian.

The big-belly seahorse can reach up to 35 cm in length and is the biggest species of seahorse in the world. 

prev
next

The big-belly seahorse can reach up to 35 cm in length and is the biggest species of seahorse in the world. 

prev
next

The pygmy seahorse is just 2cm long and lives on a type of coral known as a gorgonian.

prev
next

The pygmy seahorse is just 2cm long and lives on a type of coral known as a gorgonian.

prev
next

Anatomy

The Body – instead of scales seahorses have thin skin stretched over a series of bony plates which are arranged in rings down the length of their body The Fins – they have fins located on either side of their head, plus one on their back. These fins beat incredibly fast, the one on their back can beat at 75times a second, to help move them through the water The Stomach- Seahorses have no stomachs, so when they eat it quickly is passed through the other end! Therefore to keep them full we need to feed them constantly, they sometimes get up to 6 meals a day

Threats

Unfortunately Seahorses are increasingly facing more and more dangers. These threats come in a range of shape and sizes but the three main threats are-

The traditional medicine industry

Every year over 100 million seahorses are taken from the wild for use in traditional medicines. For centuries people have used dried seahorses to cure a range of ailments from impotence to asthma to skin infections and insomnia. However there is no scientific evidence to support these claims and sadly this practice is exhausting wild populations 

The souvenir trade

When people visit the beach or take exotic holidays often they will visit a gift shop of some description. However certain shops rather than selling a stick of rock sell dried seahorse, shells and other  sea life mementos. This curio trade as it is also known happens on an industrial scale and is completely unsustainable. Never be tempted to buy these items- remember 'take only pictures, leave nothing but footprints'

Finally habitat destruction

The last major threat to seahorses is habitat destruction from things such as bad fishing practices.  For example bottom trawlers, which are huge nets with bars attached to the bottom, are dragged over the sea bed trying to catch things such as shrimp. However, these nets sadly also end up catching hundreds of other species including seahorses and destroying all the habitats of the animals as well.

  

Dragons

Sea dragons share many similarities to seahorses: they have a snout for sucking up their prey, they have slender trunks covered in bony rings and again it’s the males who look after the eggs

 

However there are also some differences to seahorses; A sea dragon’s tail is not prehensile and cannot be used for gripping. Instead of a pouch, sea dragon males have a spongy brood patch on the underside of their tail which the female deposits the eggs on during mating. He carries the eggs, stuck to his belly until they hatch around 4-6 weeks later.

Can reach up to 46 cm in length 

Are slight smaller with a maximum size of around 35cm. 

Can reach up to 46 cm in length 

prev
next

Can reach up to 46 cm in length 

prev
next

Are slight smaller with a maximum size of around 35cm. 

prev
next

Are slight smaller with a maximum size of around 35cm. 

prev
next

Conservation

For many years SEA LIFE has been working with charities such as The Seahorse Trust and the Marine Conservation Society in order to try and protect seahorse habitats. One site of particular importance here in the UK is Studland Bay in Dorset, just down the road from our SEA LIFE centre in Weymouth. It has been found to be a vitally important breeding ground for both spiny and short-snouted seahorses. Historically SEA LIFE has helped to fund the Seahorse Trust’s tagging project in Studland Bay and also contributed through carrying out surveying in the area. SEA LIFE is also currently supporting the fight for a coherent network of Marine Protection Zones around the UK coastline (one of which we believe should be Studland Bay).