Our species of the month for August is the UK’s very own native seahorses; The Spiny or ‘Thorny’ Seahorse (Hippocampus Guttulatus) and the Short Snouted Seahorse (Hippocampus Hippocampus)!
The Spiny Seahorse can be identified by their longer snout and longer spines on their backs and heads. In summer seahorses live in shallow waters, often using their tails to cling to seagrass, rocks or seaweed before migrating to deeper water during winter. Seahorses diet consists of small marine crustaceans, with an adult seahorse eating around 30-50 times a day! Seahorses can grow to a maximum length of 15-17cm and have excellent eyesight; having the ability to look both forward and back simultaneously using their independently controlled eyes. Surprisingly seahorses are poor swimmers, so they rely on camouflage to escape larger predatory fish. This innate ability to change colour is also shown to reflect the moods of these amazing creatures, particularly during the male’s extravagant courtship routines.
Seahorses are one of the only animals where the males carry the fertilised eggs of their offspring. The females pass the eggs to their male partners to fertilise and carry until the offspring’s live birth, after which the juveniles fend for themselves. However, this is not the only remarkable quality that sets seahorses apart. Seahorses mate for life, making a special effort to maintain their relationships by daily courtship dances.
Seahorses are a treasured member of the UK’s marine species, yet their numbers are under threat. With increased anthropogenic activities such as drilling and anchor overuse, in addition to the decline of their habitats, the UKs seahorse populations long-term future is uncertain. In 2008 The Seahorse Trust successfully fought for both native seahorse species to be protected under the wildlife and countryside act, yet their numbers are still dwindling.
The benefit of Lockdown on our natural marine habitats has been undeniable and the subsequent partial recovery of some of the seahorses' favourite habitats, such as the seagrass beds, has incredibly inspired the UK seahorses reappearance. It’s so important therefore that as we get back to normal, we don’t forget about these amazing marine animals and instead continue to encourage the enforcement of the rules set out to protect them.
If you want to find out more information on seahorses and the campaigns underway to try to protect them in the UK, check out The Seahorse Trust in the link below!