One fish, two fish... spiky fish, thorny fish....

By Kately Nikiforuk

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September’s featured iSeahorse observation is a jaw-dropping pic of two fused-jawed fish! Many species of seahorse are monogamous and thus often found in pairs, as is the case here. iSeahorse user ollieclarke17 gets the photo credits for this shot, which was captured in East Timor, a country ringed by coastlines rich with marine life. 

As opposed to last month’s observation, it can be said with confidence that these presumed lovebirds belong to a certain species - in this case,  Hippocampus histrix, aka the thorny seahorse. While there are similar-looking species, including H. jayakari (Jayakar’s seahorse), H. barbouri (Barbour’s seahorse), H. angustus (narrow-bellied seahorse) and H. spinosissimus (hedgehog seahorse), thorny seahorses can be distinguished from the rest due to their long snout. H. histrix also has one of the largest distributions of any Hippocampus species, with a range spanning both the Pacific and Indian oceans and encompassing China, Hawai’i, and South Africa, among many other countries.

Regardless of their distinctiveness, in trade records, the name H. histrix is often used for any spiky seahorse captured in the Indo-Pacific. This complicates the data on this species’ population trends and trade frequency. However, much more is known about thorny seahorses than in the past - in 2012, their IUCN Red List status went from Data Deficient to Vulnerable. It has been determined that their population is on the downswing - an unfortunate trend, but ignorance isn’t bliss when biodiversity is on the line! 

Thanks again to ollieclarke17, who is a prolific photographer. Two of his pictures were recently chosen for the #SeahorseAlphabet (check them out on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!) to represent the letters C (H. comes) and H (hedgehog seahorse). 

Ollieclarke17’s tiger tail seahorse (H. comes) observation
Ollieclarke17’s hedgehog seahorse (H. spinosissimus) observation