Tag Archives: seahorses

Help save The Seahorse Trust from extinction

The Seahorse Trust has just weeks to go before it could close down forever. They are a fantastic charity and Neil Garrick-Maidment is one of the hardest working people I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to.

They are running a Crowdfunder campaign which ends November 18th to give them a much deserved chance of survival. Please pledge what you can and share the link with as many people as possible. You can make a donation to help save The Seahorse Trust by clicking here.

Let’s get as many people involved as possible by using the hashtag #SaveTheSeahorseTrust on Twitter.

Improving seahorse survival rates in captivity

The rate of survival for newborn seahorses is extremely low, both in the wild and in captivity. At birth baby seahorses are around 1cm in length, roughly the size of an eyelash, so unsurprisingly they are incredibly fragile. This makes growing-up a difficult process to say the least.

Hippocampus Reidi originate from Northen African water but have been sighted around the UK. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Rachel Lambert-Forsyth, Head of Education at the Society of Biology, carried out  research at the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth testing different feeding rituals on the H. Reidi species to see how, if at all, she could improve survival rates. Rachel spoke to Hannah from The Seahorse Project about the different feeding regimes, the problems she faced and the outcome of the study.

Q&A: Pamela S. Turner – Author of Project Seahorse

Passionate diver and wildlife conservation volunteer, Pamela S. Turner, 54, is the author behind children’s book Project Seahorse. Pamela started writing when she lived in Japan and had her first book, Hachiko, published in 2004.

Pamela aspired to be an author from the age of 4-years-old. Image via www.pamelasturner.com

During her lifetime she has also resided in Kenya, the Marshall Islands, South Africa, the Philippines and currently California. She has three children, all of whom were born in different countries.

As well as books she has written many science and nature articles for both adults and children. Project Seahorse is the sixth and latest addition to her collection of published children’s books.

Q: When did you first decide to write Project Seahorse?
A: It started with an article on seahorses that I wrote for National Wildlife, world edition. I have been a scuba diver for many years, and wanted to write something about coral reef conservation for kids. Seahorses have terrific appeal, they’re so weird and cute, I thought they would provide a compelling angle on the subject. I had already written two books in the Houghton MifflinScientists in the Field” series (Gorilla Doctors and The Frog Scientist) and my editor loved the idea of mixing marine biology and development issues.

Q: How would you describe the book?

A: Project Seahorse brings readers to the Philippines for a look at an innovative coral reef conservation program to help seahorses and the local fishing families that depend on the sea for their livelihoods.

Q: Where did the idea come from?
A: I’ve been a scuba diver for over 25 years, and was dying to do a wet-and-salty sort of book! A seahorse is an animal everyone recognizes and most people have sympathy for, so it was a good fit.

“Spending time with local fishing families and seeing how traditional fishing is done was the biggest thrill for me. Digoy, the Filipino fisher who demonstrated his technique, was a world-class breath-holder!”

Q: What was your main aim when producing it?
A: My main aim was to make children care about seahorses, coral reefs, and the people of the Philippines.

Q: How did you obtain the information?
A: I read many, many scientific papers by Amanda Vincent and other seahorse scientists, and I visited the Philippines with Amanda and her colleagues to see the project first-hand.

Q: What are the most interesting things you learnt whilst creating Project Seahorse?
A: I already knew a fair amount about marine protected areas and seahorses. Spending time with local fishing families and seeing how traditional fishing is done was the biggest thrill for me. Digoy, the Filipino fisher who demonstrated his technique, was a world-class breath-holder!

Q: Have you always been interested in marine life?
A: I grew up in Southern California and got my scuba diving certification in 1984. I think the great thing about diving is how close you can get, safely, to all sorts of animals. My diving has definitely inspired my writing. In addition to Project Seahorse, I wrote Prowling the Seas, about a high-tech tagging project that includes leatherback turtles, white sharks, bluefin tuna, and sooty shearwaters, a species of seabird.

Tiger tail seahorse via http://www.pamelasturner.com

Q: Who did you work with?
A: Amanda Vincent, Heather Koldewey, Amando Blanco, and many other members of Project Seahorse. The wonderful photos were taken by Scott Tuason, an amazingly talented photographer based in Manila.

Q: How long did it take to publish – from the idea to going to print?
A: The whole process took several years. We had to find a good time for me to visit the Philippines, and then the design and printing process takes many months, even after the text is finished.

Q: Who is it aimed at, simply children or for anyone?
A: Although Project Seahorse is a children’s book, targeted at readers aged 9 to 12, I think any adult who wants to learn more about coral reef conservation, and particularly marine protected areas, will come away satisfied.

Q: What reactions have you had from readers so far?
A: I’ve had many lovely reviews from professionals, for example librarians and teachers, as well as kids who are quite taken by the subject and amazed by the underwater pictures.

Q: Any more plans for books on the cards?
A: Right now I’m working on a new “Scientists in the Field” book, Dolphins of Shark Bay, about wild bottlenose dolphins in Australia, coming in Autumn 2013.

See the entire range of Pamela’s wildlife books on her website and watch a video here about the work of Project Seahorse.

Seahorse FAQ

There’s no denying that seahorses are fascinating, magical little creatures but, apart from being pretty, what do we actually know about them and why are they so important? This page will answer the common (and the not so common) questions swimming through your brain, to give you a better insight into the life of a seahorse.

Where does the seahorse get its name?

  • Seahorse derives from the Ancient Greek word ‘hippocampus‘. ‘Hippos’ meaning ‘horse’ and ‘kampos’ meaning ‘sea monster’.

How many different types of seahorse species are there?

Which type of seahorses live around the British Isles?
Where are they found around the English coast?
  • The Short-Snouted Seahorse is found along the south coast of England and the Channel Islands. The Spiny Seahorse is also found along the south coast but also along the west coast up to the Shetland Isles.

Can seahorses make a noise?

  • Seahorses produce clicking and popping sounds during feeding and courtship. They do this by moving two parts of their skull against each other.

What is the name for a group of seahorse?

  • A Herd

A group of seahorses is known as a Herd. Image via weheartit.com

What is the average life span of a seahorse?

  • There is no definite answer but it ranges from roughly one year for the smaller species to an average of three to five years for the larger species.

What do seahorses eat?

  • Brine shrimp, tiny fish and plankton. An adult eats 30-50 itmes a day. Seahorse fry (baby seahorses) eat a staggering 3000 pieces of food per day.

How do seahorses eat?

  • Seahorses have no teeth and no stomach. Food passes through their digestive systems so quickly, they must eat almost constantly to stay alive.

How do seahorses have babies?

  • The female seahorse lays the eggs and transfers them into the male seahorses pouch where they are then incubated. Every male seahorse has an incubation pouch in its body.  The eggs are fertilized by the male, who also goes through the labour process and it takes 2-3 weeks for the babies to be born.

It is the male seahorse who gets pregnant and gives birth. Image via weheartit.com

What are the main threats to seahorses?

There are three main reasons seahorses are at risk:

  1. Firstly, the Traditional Chinese Medicine Trade take in excess of 20 million seahorses a year from the wild to be used for medicinal purposes.
  2. They are used as souvenirs in many countries. They are deliberately taken from the sea by the Curio Trade and left to die in the boiling sun.
  3. The pet trade takes an estimated one million seahorses. It is thought that less than 1,000 of these live for more than six weeks.

Pygmy seahorse Code of Conduct

Marine life expert and underwater photographer, Dr Richard Smith, has dedicated much of his time to allowing us less ocean-knowledgeable folk an in-depth look at a habitat we wouldn’t usually have the privilege to see.

Pygmy Seahorse Bargibanti captured by Dr Richard Smith via OceanRealmlmages.com

Educated from one end of the globe to the other, he has a Zoology degree from Southampton University, England and an MSc in Ecology and Evolution from the University of Queensland, Australia. With over 2000 dives under his belt Richard has achieved Divemaster status. It was just last year that Richard was awarded a doctorate for his research into the biology and conservation of, yes you guessed it, seahorses. Pygmy to be specific. It was during his PhD in which he created the Code of Conduct for diving with and photographing pygmy seahorses.

“I’m trying to have the Code of Conduct reach as many divers as possible and it’s always great for the general public to learn more about seahorses too.” – Dr Richard Smith

Pygmy seahorses have the smallest population of any species of seahorse. Measuring between 1.4 and 2.7 cm in length, their size makes them extremely fragile and delicate, and caution must be taken when documenting them and their habitat. Dr Richard Smith’s main aim is to reduce the negative impact that divers have on these rare animals and, to ensure greater protection of this species, created The Code of Conduct guidelines presented here:

  1. Do not touch or manipulate pygmy seahorses in any way, as this can easily damage or even kill them
  2. Do not touch the gorgonian home of the seahorse (they are extremely slow-growing and delicate), take particular care of camera position and exhalent bubbles
  3. Do not use a torch/flashlight or camera focus light to highlight a pygmy seahorse, this disorientates and stresses them
  4. Use white balanced natural light rather than artificial light for video capture to reduce disturbance from bright lights
  5. Five photo limit per diver using flash photography, as more can stress the animal
  6. No night diving with pygmy seahorses – they sleep at night and lights disturb them
  7. Be aware of the surrounding environment, pay close attention to fin positioning, so not to damage other corals

Pygmy Seahorse Denise captured by Dr Richard Smith via OceanRealmlmages.com

Find out more about the work of Dr Richard Smith visit his website, Ocean Realm Images and keep up to date with him on Twitter @Rich_Underwater 

Poll: How much do you know about seahorses?

It worried me when I found out that, to some people seahorses were simply characters of myth and not actual living creatures. Seahorses play as much of a vital role in the make-up of marine ecosystems as every other sea creature.

This poll was created to find out how many people are aware of the role of a seahorse within the marine environment, and for those that aren’t, whether they have an interest in finding out more.