Of seagulls and seahorses

By Kately Nikiforuk

seagull seahorse Marina Gorbunova iNaturalist.jpg

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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