Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bonaire Report #2: Longsnout Seahorse (Hippocampus reidi)

Longsnout Seahorse (Hippocampus reidi); Finding a Seahorse can be a very challenging task. Diving with Bonaire's premier dive master Bas Noij, we were told that they could be found at the "***NOT GONNA SAY**** " dive site. Bas knew that "a" seahorse could be found at this site in the 20-25 foot depth, but couldn't guarantee that we would find it. After less than a minute I found it! What really baffles me about finding this animal, was that it was the only one in the area and Bas said that he has never seen a mate. What a boring life!

Only two species of Seahorses occur in the Caribbean, the Longsnout, Hippocampus reidi and Lined Seahorse, Hippocampus erectus. General information on the abundance of Longsnout Seahorse is lacking and the species has been categorized as data deficient indicating a need for further studies. The Lined Seahorse is currently listed by the IUCN as a vulnerable species. In 2007, three single individuals, H. reidi have been repeatedly sighted at three different shallow reef dive sites. Although seahorses nearly always occur in pairs and the home ranges for the species is rather small, as of yet no pairs have been sighted. The reefs are mixed habitat with corals, sea grass beds, and sponges present. Later habitats are often associated with seahorses. Previous longsnout seahorse sightings dating back to 1993 have over the years been inconsistent and restricted to only one of the sites. The recent frequent sightings and identification of a new reef site could indicate an increase in the local seahorse population size. Further studies are needed to estimate the local seahorse population size and habitat characteristics.

One of the most desired species in the aquarium trade, it is imported quite often. Long, thick snout, narrow body, and no spines or cirri. Can be found in a range of bold, bright colors and usually is covered with tiny black or white spots. May also have pale splotches on lateral surfaces. 16-19 dorsal rays and 11 body rings.

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