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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sea Things #32: Longsnout Seahorse

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly.

Everybody knows what a seahorse is. They're almost mythical, since you see drawings of Poseidon riding them and such. They're so very cute. This particular seahorse is the Hippocampus reidi, or Longsnout Seahorse. That scientific name is greek for "bent horse." They are found all over the Caribbean, although we've only seen them in Bonaire. They get to be about 6 inches long, and can vary in color quite a bit. Usually, they are yellow to red. We once saw a black one off of Klein Bonaire in over 100 feet of water.

Like Frogfish, Seahorses generally stay in one place or right around the same place for a while. As a result, in Bonaire, divemasters know where they are and will lead divers to them. just like the Frogfish, this can be bad, since divers will destroy the area around the seahorse, leaving nothing for the Seahorse to eat or prey on.

Longsnout Seahorses eat plankton and small little things that happen by them, as they sit with their tails wrapped around corals, grasses and gorgonians. When they mate, the males are the ones that carry the young, and give birth. The female and the male mate, but then the female gives the eggs to the male to carry in a little pouch. The eggs grow there until they're ready to be born. They may give birth to up to 1,000 young at once, but it's usually only about 1 or 2 that will live to adulthood.

Seahorses have been taken off of reefs frequently, to be "dried and collected" (a horrible thought), or for aquariums. Like I've said, let's keep the fish on the reef where they belong.

The diver signal for a seahorse is to make your hands as if you are pulling the reins on a horse. Get it? :) One of these days, I'll hopefully spot one on my own. So far, I've always needed a divemaster to point one out.

My favorite Seahorse was the orange one pictured in the topmost photo. We were on a night dive in Spring 2009 on Klein Bonaire. As usual, Todd and I were tagging along at the back of the group. The divemaster and a couple other divers had pointed to something in a hole, gestured to the divers behind them, pointed and moved on. The next group of divers didn't know what was in the hole, and as we approached, they just pointed, knowing something was in there. We looked and looked and all shrugged (remember, this is a night dive, it's dark). The other divers moved on, leaving Todd and me. I decided to give it one last look and dropped down (trying to be quick, as we were fairly deep for a night dive - about 65 feet). Once I looked deeper into the hole and shined my light in - there he was, the orange seahorse. I gestured to Todd and he finally saw it, too. He got some good photos. If you're ever in Bonaire, I definitely recommend a night dive on Klein, that's for sure.

Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it. Photos on this post are courtesy of Todd Krebs.

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