08 de outubro de 2019

Of seagulls and seahorses

Our latest iSeahorse featured observation is a well-timed shot of a snapped-up short-snouted seahorse. Marina Gorbunova (melodi_96 on iNaturalist) beheld this beak-beleaguered Hippocampus hippocampus on the edge of the Black Sea.

This is a very exciting encounter from a scientific perspective. When Project Seahorse published a review paper in 2010, summarizing what was known about the predation of seahorses, the only known gnawer of short-snouted seahorses was the loggerhead sea turtle.  As far as we can tell, this is the first visual record of a seagull eating a short-snouted seahorse. And while four seagull species were previously noted in the review as syngnathid predators, all those cases had been of gulls eating pipefishes, not seahorses. We don’t know our seagull species quite like we know our seahorses, but if this particular gull belongs to a species not recorded in 2010, then that would be a brand new seahorse predator to add to the list. Anyone on #TeamBird who can help us out?

How cool is citizen science?! With one opportune shot, we learned something new about seagulls and seahorses, and how they interact at the interface of sea and sky. While wide-scale bottom trawling and habitat degradation are far bigger threats to seahorse survival than the occasional hungry gull, the more we learn about the ecology of Vulnerable species, like H. hippocampus, the better.

Thanks so much, Marina, for contributing to our knowledge base. An avid nature photographer, she’s submitted over one thousand species to iNaturalist, including lifeforms as diverse and whimsical as lingonberries, balkan wall lizards, moon carrots, wrinkled crust and rusty blennies. 


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Publicado em 08 de outubro de 2019, 06:01 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 1 comentários | Deixar um comentário

02 de julho de 2019

Blooming beauty of Stratoni

Long-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus guttulatus) in Stratoni, Greece. Photo by Miguel Correia/Project Seahorse.

We picked a “blooming” beauty for our latest featured iSeahorse observation - a long-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus guttulatus) sporting a bouquet of fleshy fronds. This photo was snapped near Stratoni, Greece, by Dr. Miguel Correia, one of our iSeahorse National Seahorse Experts and a member of the IUCN Seahorse, Pipefish and Seadragon Specialist Group

The Stratoni seahorse population was discovered in 2007, when archaeological divers found a different type of treasure than they were originally seeking. Since then, this small pocket of Greek seahorses, which consists of both short-snouted seahorses (Hippocampus hippocampus) andlong-snouted seahorses like this one, has been monitored by a passionate group of divers that evolved into the Hippocampus Marine Institute. The Institute was created to protect and understand this specific seahorse population. 

In early May this year, students from the Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) at the University of Algarve teamed up with Miguel and the Hippocampus Marine Institute to survey the seahorses of Stratoni. Both H. guttulatus and H. hippocampus are listed as Data Deficient by the IUCN Red List, so it’s super exciting to have more information! 

Stay tuned for the rest of the Stratoni seahorse story as it unravels - in the meantime, you can find out more at the Hippocampus Marine Institute website, and Miguel Correia’s blog post, The Strange Case of Stratoni Seahorses.

For more information on Hippocamus guttulatus see:

IUCN Red List https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/41006/67617766

iSeahorse: https://www.iseahorse.org/Taxa/Details/102821

Publicado em 02 de julho de 2019, 08:17 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

29 de maio de 2019

How many Bargibant’s pygmy seahorses do you see?

In April we were showered with Bargibant’s pygmy seahorse observations! iSeahorse user nudisusie (aka Susannah Erbe) spotted nearly a dozen of these knobbly cuties clinging to a single seafan in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. But just how many Bargibant’s pygmy seahorses were captured in this snapshot?

At first glance, it might look like there’s one camouflaged seahorse in the centre of the frame. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see another seahorse to the right, even tougher to distinguish from the surrounding coral than the first. Then, if you’re anything like me, you’ll see yet another seahorse to the left – which, this time, really is just a branch of coral.

Considering their tiny size and knack for hiding, it’s impressive that there are divers with the skill, passion and patience to spot a Hippocampus bargibanti, and we really appreciate each and every pygmy seahorse observation submitted to iSeahorse. If you want to be the next person to do so, please be sure to read the Code of Conduct Guidelines for pygmy seahorse photography, created by Dr. Richard Smith (iSeahorse’s global pygmy seahorse expert). His easy-to-follow rules include not damaging gorgonian coral with your fins, minding the direction of your exhalant bubbles, and no night diving so you don’t wake sleepy seahorses.

The reason for the don’t-destroy-gorgonians-with-your-fins rule (other than for the coral’s sake, of course) is that this easily damaged coral is crucial for H. bargibanti survival. They are extreme habitat specialists that live on a single gorgonian coral - a bond lasting for the duration of the seahorse’s life. In fact, the Bargibant’s pygmy seahorse was accidentally discovered in 1969 when a scientist brought gorgonian coral back to a lab and noticed hitch-hiking pygmy seahorses upon close examination. H. bargibanti was the first pygmy seahorse known to science, so biologists have only known for 50 years that pygmy seahorses even exist. Several pygmy species were discovered within the last two decades, and the Japanese pygmy seahorse was formally described only last year.

There is still so much to learn about these incredible creatures - thanks, nudisusie, for contributing to pygmy seahorse research!

Find out more here:



Publicado em 29 de maio de 2019, 08:08 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

30 de abril de 2019

Prickly, plum-hued stunner is March's pick

Hippocampus spinosissimus,  hedgehog seahorse. Photo by Evolution Dive Resort, Philippines.

Hippocampus spinosissimus, hedgehog seahorse. Photo by Evolution Dive Resort, Philippines.

This prickly, plum-hued stunner is none other than the hedgehog seahorse (Hippocampus spinosissimus), our featured iSeahorse observation from March. The photo was posted by Evolution Dive Resort, which operates out of Malapascua Island, Philippines.

In addition to the Philippines, hedgehog seahorses are found in Australia, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Sadly, these seahorses face threats to survival across this range, including the fact that they’re one of the two seahorse species most frequently reported as being traded internationally. Conversations with fishers in the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand have indicated that over the last decade the H. spinosissimus population may have decreased by 30% or more. They are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.

There is much work to be done to get our oceans in ship-shape despite all the ships and organizations such as Evolution Dive Resort who are doing their part. They strive for environmental responsibility, and outline the ways in which they reduce, reuse and recycle on their website. From participating in a used boat oil recycling program, to keeping plastic out of the ocean by repurposing empty detergent bottles as flower pots, Evolution is striving to protect the home of local wildlife like Mandarin fish, bobtail squids and hedgehog seahorses. Find out what you can do too - http://www.projectseahorse.org/get-involved.

Find out more about the hedgehog seahorse here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/107259870/54906372

Publicado em 30 de abril de 2019, 09:22 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

03 de abril de 2019

A spotless three-spot seahorse!

Hippocampus trimaculatus,  the three-spot seahorse. Photo by DavidR/iSeahorse

Hippocampus trimaculatus, the three-spot seahorse. Photo by DavidR/iSeahorse

Our celebrity species this month is Hippocampus trimaculatus, aka the three-spot seahorse. Thanks, iSeahorse user davidr, for spotting this spotless three-spot!

Project Seahorse biologist Lily Stanton had a tricky time identifying this fish, as, like Oddball from the classic animated movie "102 Dalmatians", this specimen lacks the spots adorning their kin. What gave away its identity was the backwards-facing hooked spine jutting out of its chin, an even more distinctive H. trimaculatus trait than the 3 spots typically found along their back.

Trimaculatus translates to three-spot, and many fish have this word as the latter half of their binomial name. This includes the three-spot wrasse (Halichoeres trimaculatus), three-spot angelfish (Apolemichthys trimaculatus), three-spot grouper (Epinephelus trimaculatus), three-spot grunter (Hephaestus trimaculatus), and three-spot barb (Enteromius trimaculatus), among others. There’s also a three-spot dung beetle (Scybalocanthon trimaculatus)! While these other three-spotted species are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, the three-spot seahorse has the unfortunate distinction of being the only Vulnerable trimaculatus thus far.

Perhaps this three-spot’s threatened status is because, unlike Oddball, who was able to outrun Cruella before the glamourous villain was trapped in a giant cake and subsequently arrested, the largely sedentary seahorse is unable to escape danger. Since H. trimaculatus happens to hang out in the exact sort of habitat favoured by tropical shrimp - sandy, muddy substrates - this seahorse is particularly prone to becoming shrimp trawler bycatch.

Not much is known about their exact numbers, so we really appreciate when iSeahorse users like davidr (and you!) contribute to our knowledge base with pics like this.

To learn more about these species, check out the IUCN Red List website: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/10087/17252219

View the original observations here: https://www.iseahorse.org/Observations/Details/20623732

Publicado em 03 de abril de 2019, 04:23 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

28 de fevereiro de 2019

Hippocampus hippocampus, the short-snouted seahorse, in the UK

Hippocampus hippocampus,  the short-snouted seahorse.

Our most recent featured iSeahorse observation is Hippocampus hippocampus, the short-snouted seahorse. Thank you to iSeahorse user Tamsyn Mann for this exclusive snapshot from the English coast.

With its wrinkly skin and sandy complexion, this fish looks a bit like E.T.! And it might as well be - while we share a planet with this species, they’re still alien to us. Despite the dedication of scientists, the short-snouted seahorse is listed as a Data Deficient species by the IUCN Red List.

However, the IUCN Red List categories refer to a species’ status on a global scale - often, regional assessments have been conducted on subsets of the population, even if their global situation is understudied. We don’t know how H. hippocampus is faring worldwide, but so far it’s been established that they are Near Threatened in the Mediterranean.

Elsewhere, their regional status is uncertain. While they appear to be in rapid decline in Portugal’s Ria Formosa Lagoon, in recent years H. hippocampus has been frequently sighted in the estuarine region of the Thames. In 2017, there were 6 seahorse sightings in the span of only 2 months - typically, only 1 or 2 are spotted in the Thames over the course of an entire year. However, some of those could have been long-snouted seahorses, aka H. guttulatus, the other seahorsespecies native to the waters surrounding Great Britain.

Both short-snouted seahorses and long-snouted seahorses are Data Deficient, but the IUCN Seahorse, Pipefish & Stickleback Specialist group is working alongside the Oceanário de Lisboa to fix this!

More information:

Check out this link about the state of European seahorses:

Learn more about the Thames seahorse sightings:

Read through the IUCN Red List assessment for H. hippocampus

Publicado em 28 de fevereiro de 2019, 12:37 AM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

10 de janeiro de 2019

Featured observation - Hippocampus subelongatus, a Data Deficient species

H. subelongatus

Our latest newsmaker is Hippocampus subelongatus, a Data Deficient species rarely observed on iSeahorse! This observation is courtesy of Maarten de Brauwer, who is one of our two National Seahorse Experts for Australia. Maarten spied this fine fish in Western Australia, the sole patch of the globe this species is known to inhabit. Fittingly, they are commonly known as the Western Australian seahorse, but they are also referred to as the tiger snout seahorse - not to be confused with the tiger tail seahorse, H. comes!

Their exact distribution along the coast of Western Australian is hazy, but researchers have encountered them from the Abrolhos Islands to Rockingham. They can even be found swimming the saltier parts of the Swan River in Perth, indicating a relatively high tolerance for low salinity. They often hang around sponges, seagrasses and sea squirts, and move to deeper waters in the winter.

Maarten’s picture is only the 9th Western Australian seahorse to be catalogued on iSeahorse. Compare that to over 300 iSeahorse observations of the big-belly seahorse (H. abdominalis), another Australian species that we highlighted last time. But encountering rare creatures doesn’t seem like a rare occurrence for Maarten - he has a rad blog called Critter Research that’s definitely worth scrolling through!

In addition to H. subelongatus, there are still 17 Hippocampus species listed as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List, plus 2 newly discovered seahorses that are yet to be evaluated. While we appreciate all of the observations you post to iSeahorse, it is particularly exciting to see DD species, as each post gets us one fin-stroke closer to understanding their current conservation status.

And it certainly feels like we’re getting closer - Maarten isn’t the only one to have seen H. subelongatus recently. At the end of 2018, a Western Australian seahorse was crowned with the Guylian Seahorses of the World Hugygot Prize!

More information
Pollom, R. 2017. Hippocampus subelongatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T40773A54906710. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T40773A54906710.en. Downloaded on 10 January 2019.

Publicado em 10 de janeiro de 2019, 06:28 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

17 de dezembro de 2018

Two Big-bellies and one Short-head in Australia

Our latest featured iSeahorse observation is a trio of scenic snapshots nabbed by iSeahorse user sharejosie, aka Josie Jones. She saw all three seahorses - two Big-belly seahorses (H. abdominalis) and one Short-head seahorse (H. breviceps) - between October 6th and 8th in Melbourne, Australia. Both species are unique to the region, with H. abdominalis found in New Zealand as well.
H. abdominalis

H. abdominalis

H. abdominalis
H. abdominalis

H. breviceps
H. breviceps

In addition to their homeland, these seahorses share several traits - for one, neither is always entirely faithful to their mate, despite the Hippocampus genus’ habit of monogamy. Big-bellies have been described as “socially polygamous but genetically monogamous” in that they dance with multiple partners, but mate with just one. And in captivity, male Short-head pouches sometimes contain eggs from multiple females - although scientists are unsure if this behaviour is also found in wild populations. It can take as little as minutes up to two and a half days for a short-head pair to mate!

The two species are also both habitat generalists, unlike a lot of seahorses, meaning that they live in many different types of habitats. Big-bellies will even gather around artificial structures, such as the anti-predator nets surrounding aquaculture salmon pens! Plus, they are both pretty mobile compared to a lot of Hippocampus members, with the Big-bellies considered strong swimmers (by seahorse standards), and the Short-head able to travel by wrapping their tails around floating macroalgae. Considering that Big-bellies in captivity have been found to die if temperatures reach 26 degrees, the ability to disperse and survive in different ecosystems could be useful if warming waters make regions of their range inhospitable.

Both Big-belly and Short-head seahorses were considered Data Deficient by the IUCN Red List prior to 2017. Now, these species are both listed as Least Concern. Posting pictures like these ones to iSeahorse truly helps contribute to the body of information on seahorse biology needed for boosting species from Data Deficient to a more informative label, which allows us to initiate effective conservation actions.

Thanks for sharing, sharejosie!

To learn more about these species, check out the brand-new IUCN Red List website!

Big-belly seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis):

Short-head seahorse (Hippocampus breviceps):

View the original observations here:




Publicado em 17 de dezembro de 2018, 10:58 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

13 de novembro de 2018

Featured iSeahorse observation from Kenya

Thorny seahorse (Hippocampus histrix) by iSeahorse user designedforx

Our latest featured fish is a thorny seahorse (Hippocampus histrix) with skin as orange as the Jack-o-lanterns currently adorning the porches of Vancouver (where our Canadian office is located). At the time that iSeahorse user designedforx snapped this photo, the citrus-hued steed was hanging out in Kenya’s Wasini Channel. The channel is adjacent to Wasini Island, which has a population of 3,000 residing in two villages, Mwkiro and Wasini, as well as the hamlet of Nyuma Maji.

In addition to Kenya, H. histrix is found along the coastlines of many countries bordering the Indian or Pacific ocean, such as Australia and Japan. Interestingly, there is some speculation that the global thorny seahorse population actually contains two or more cryptic species - distinct species that aren’t easily discovered due to their similar outward appearance.

More genetic analyses will need to be done to determine this, so for now, H. histrix is one seahorse species - and one of the six most frequently traded seahorse species at that. This has likely contributed to the thorny seahorse’s declining population, and their subsequent classification by the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable. Other African Hippocampus species, including the Endangered Knysna seahorse, are experiencing a downward swing in their numbers as well.

But while the seahorse populations are decreasing, we’ve been pleased to notice a recent increase in seahorse observations posted to iSeahorse from African countries, including Mozambique and Tanzania. This is very exciting, and we hope this trend continues. Please let us know if you have seen a seahorse in African waters, whether it happened yesterday or three years ago!

See the original observation here

Explore other recent thorny seahorse sightings

Publicado em 13 de novembro de 2018, 06:03 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

06 de novembro de 2018

Hippocampus capensis - the latest iSeahorse VIP-horse

Hippocampus capensis. Photo by the Knysna Basin Project.

The latest iSeahorse VIP-horse is Hippocampus capensis, also known as the Knysna seahorse, an Endangered species hailing from just a few South African river mouths. Thanks to our colleague Louw Claassens, the director of the Knysna Basin Project and iSeahorse National Seahorse Expert, for this spectacular shot and submitting it to iSeahorse. 

As a protected species, H. capensis cannot be removed from the water for either commercial trade or subsistence fishing. However, the very water they swim in threatens their survival, due to pollution and degradation of the three water bodies they call home, the Swartvlei, Keurbooms and Knysna estuaries. Their combined surface area is only about 27 square kilometres. The Knysna estuary, which is their primary habitat, inconveniently happens to be a site of heavy human activity.

The fact that their population declined by at least 50% in only a decade might sound pretty bleak, but luckily H. capensis has Louw Claassens on their side. The Knysna Basin Project has the same core objectives as Project Seahorse: research, education and conservation. One of their current endeavours is the Knysna Seahorse Status (KySS) project, a long-term, ongoing effort which started in 2014 to understand key elements of their biology. This has included studying everything from body size to home-range size, and involved the use of tools such as VIFE (visible implant fluorescent elastomer) tags and artificial Reno mattress habitats. 

Find out more here...

Publicado em 06 de novembro de 2018, 07:19 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário