Page 9 - June 16, 2021
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{ 8 }  SNJ Today  |  JUNE 16, 2021                                                                                   JUNE 16, 2021  |   { 9 }

            The lined seahorse (Hippocampus                                                                        rip up seagrass. She also notes that their
 ings. So in this dance, seahorses often   erectus) maintains an upright position, us-
 intertwine tails and shift their hue to gray,   ing its prehensile tail to attach to aquatic                      reproductive system is so rare in the animal
 black, red, green, olive, orange, brassy, or   plants and anchor itself in currents. Its                          kingdom that we have much to learn from
 yellow—very fancy. They can have fleshy   small fins propel through the water with                                “Mr. Moms.”
 tabs that further camouflage them against   rapid beats of 30 times per second.                                      Hippocampus erectus exists in coastal
 their surroundings. Their color is not   PHOTO: MARCO AMBAUER                                                     waters from Nova Scotia to Argentina.
 only for camouflage but can vary based                                                                            Their populations are considered vulner-
 upon mood, stress, diet, and environment. they decay, it reduces dissolved oxygen                                 able and some have crashed by greater
 They have prehensile tails that can grasp  necessary for aquatic organisms to survive.                            than 50 percent over the past five years.
 objects, including each other. Dance class   Seahorse habitat includes seagrasses,                                We can do a lot to protect them in New
 has just advanced to a tango!  reefs, mangroves, and, as already men-                                             Jersey waters, primarily by limiting or
 Their bond is so strong that if a mate  tioned, estuaries. Dr. Amanda Vincent,                                    eliminating our use of fertilizers and not
 is lost the widower may not ever find   University of British Columbia and a                                      operating crafts in shallows. And yes, eat-
 another one.  seahorse expert, identifies many world-                                                             ing less shrimp, a new challenge for me.
 The male has something unique to sea- wide threats to seahorses beyond grass                                      But yeah, it’s the least we can do for such
 horses—a male brood pouch. The female  depletion. Some of these are bycatch or                                    a diligent dad. n
 deposits her eggs in his pouch where they accidental capture in fishing gear; trawling
 are internally fertilized by him. Then he  that destroys bottom habitat; and Chinese                                 Sources:
 incubates them for 21 days, such that he is traditional medicines that target seahorses                              Animal Diversity Website
 in essence pregnant. When the embryos  to grind up for ancient remedies. There is a                                  Chesapeake Bay Foundation
 are fully matured they hatch from their   pet trade for seahorses and dried seahorses                                New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium
 egg within the pouch. He thrusts his belly are also marketed in seaside shops. More                                  National Geographic
 region forward in contractions that expel  than 20 million seahorses are collected                                   NJ Adventure Aquarium
 the young, head first. Each juvenile is a   each year. Vincent suggests that the most                                Project Seahorse, Dr. Amanda Vincent,
 miniature of its adult counterpart. One   beneficial thing you can do for seahorses                               University of British Columbia
 hundred to 1,000 young are released at   is to stop buying shrimp because shrimp                                     Living Fishes of the World, E.S. Herald
 a birthing. Each is about 5/8 of an inch;   trawlers capture them as bycatch and                                     NOAA
 not until about eight to 10 months do they
 reach their adult size.
 Sadly, if he does not expel all of the
 young a remaining unhatched egg will   PICKUP A WINNER
 create a gas in the pouch that floats him
 to the surface where he becomes food for
 other aquatic animals.
 Why the prehensile tail? Seahorses
 have tiny fins, both dorsal and pectoral,
 that are not very effective against cur-
 rents. The pectoral fins are behind what
 would be a mandible in a horse’s head,
 allowing them to steer. The dorsal fin on
 their back propels them forward, beating
 20 to 30 times per second, which makes
 seeing them in action very difficult. (In
 comparison, hummingbirds beat about
 53 beats per second.) Lined seahorses
 are small and subject to being pummeled
 about by currents. Thus the prehensile tail
 enables them to anchor to grasses.
 This raises an important conservation
 issue. Submerged aquatic vegetation is
 often in short supply because of pollution
 issues, disturbance from boat propellors,   VANNHASIT.COM  VANNHASIT.COM
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