Featured iSeahorse observation - the Near-threatened longsnout seahorse

Our latest featured iSeahorse observation is courtesy of Jemma, aka jemmaudc, who works at Utila Dive Center, our iSeahorse Ambassador for Honduras. This ethereal beauty was spotted off the Caribbean coast, and has been identified as a longsnout seahorse (Hippocampus reidi), which has a range spanning from North Carolina to southern Brazil.  

A herd of Endangered White’s seahorses

This month we’re highlighting a whole herd of White’s seahorses (Hippocampus whitei), thanks to scale-blazing scuba diver Tony Strazzari! Despite only joining iSeahorse on May 18th, Strazzari has posted over 140 seahorse observations under the username of tonydiver, backdated all the way to 2014.

A seahorse as prey - featured iSeahorse observation

By Kately Nikiforuk

May’s featured iSeahorse observation is a trio of jaw-dropping action shots, courtesy of user thumbwave (aka Craig Chaddock). The intrepid citizen scientist witnessed a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) pick up and immediately let go of a Pacific seahorse (Hippocampus ingens), which clutched its grassy holdfast throughout the ordeal. After the seahorse was dropped, Craig managed to capture the split second before it vanished beneath the water’s surface. From this novel angle, the seahorse almost looks like a mini Loch Ness monster. 

Seahorses, though predators themselves, are preyed upon by a wide range of animals. More than 80 species have been found with seahorses or pipefishes in their bellies. Examples of known seahorse snackers are loggerhead sea turtles, fairy penguins, skipjack tuna, spottail porgies and horn sharks. Because of their low abundance and meagre caloric value, predators probably feed on seahorses opportunistically, rather than being specialized to hunt them. Pacific seahorses, which are Vulnerable (IUCN Red List), are far more threatened by the shrimp trawling industry than by opportunistic predators such as great blue herons. 

So why was the heron’s catch released? Was it a slip of the beak or an outright rejection? Seahorses have bony plates instead of scales and aren’t very nutritious, so perhaps the bird simply didn’t have time for a crunchy, skimpy meal. Regardless of why this happened, there’s no question that these photos were impressively timed. Thanks for sharing with us, Craig! 

Learn more about seahorse predators here:  
Kleiber D., L.K. Blight, I.R. Caldwell, and A.C.J. Vincent. 2011. The importance of seahorses and pipefishes in the diet of marine animalsReviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 21(2): 205-223.  DOI: 10.1007/s11160-010-9167-5

We return to searching for clues in the catch and trade of seahorses in Viet Nam 

Seahorses enter a complicated system of trade from fishers to various levels of buyers and/or traders. By piecing together information from a number of different sources, we have been able to create a fuller, more accurate picture of the true catch and trade of seahorses in Viet Nam.  More on that in part three of our blog, but in the meantime here are some images, taken by Hoang during his time in the field, which provide a glimpse into the life of a seahorse trade detective. 

The strange case of Stratoni seahorses

I went to Greece after a call from Vasilis Mentogiannis, a professional archaeological diver who contacted Project Seahorse to urge us to protect a local seahorse population. As I was not aware of any seahorse population in Greece (apart from some rare occasional sightings), I was very curious about this intriguing story.

Patagonian seahorses send excited chills down my spine

I may have been shivering with cold, but my heart was leaping with excitement … I was face to face with the Patagonian seahorse, Hippocampus patagonicus, and it was magical. The species was only described in 2004 and is assessed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

iSeahorse featured observation: White's seahorse - newly recognised as Endangered

December’s featured observation, posted by iSeahorse user John Sear, is of a species that’s been pretty newsworthy as of late.  So, do you want the good news or the bad news first? Well, you’ll actually get them both at once - White’s seahorse (Hippocampus whitei) is now recognized as an Endangered species, according to a 2017 IUCN Red List assessment. While it is obviously not a good thing for a species to be Endangered, their new status can be seen as a step in the right direction.  Recognition of their declining population could provide a necessary push to implement more conservation strategies.