Friday, August 8, 2014

Beautiful "Sea Monsters" at Malapascua!

Tiger tail sea horse at Exotic Island dive resort
Tiger tail seahorse at a night.
When diving around Malapascua, you are very likely to see many amazing critters in the ocean, in addition to our world famous Thresher Sharks, of course. One beautiful critter you can expect to come across  is the Seahorse.

So what is a Seahorse? The Latin name for Seahorse is hippocampus. "Hippocampus" comes from the Ancient Greek hippos meaning "horse" and campos meaning "sea monster". 
However we do find them too enchanting to be called sea monsters!

Seahorses are actually a type of fish. They live in water, breath through gills and have a swim bladder. They do however not have any cardinal fins and are instead equipped with a long tail, which the seahorse can use to hold on to objects as to not drift away in the current.  The Sea Horses most famous feature is, without a doubt, their long neck and snout that points downwards. They also have the ability to change color for camouflage.

Around the world there are between 30 to 40 species of seahorses and possibly as many subspecies. Sea horses are very hard to identify as the sea horses of the same species can look very different. New species are still being found. Around Malapascua we are lucky to have several species to observe. The two most common species we see are the Tiger tail Seahorse (Hippocampuscomes) and the Pygmy Seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti).

Pygmy seahorse at Malapascua exotic island dive resort
Pygmy seahorse hiding in a sea fan.
Seahorses are known to have great eyesight and they are also able to work their eyes independently. They can actually see in front and behind of them at the same time!

By using their great eye sight, they locate their food and then uses their long snout to suck it in. Seahorses  feed on small crustaceans and different kinds of shrimps. If you are diving in area repeatedly, you will probably discover that seahorses are usually found in the same places time after time. A seahorse usually resides in a sea fan or a small coral patch and unless needed to, the seahorse will not move location for many years.

One reason for not changing location can be because Seahorses are poor swimmers. They are mainly relying on their dorsal fins to provide propulsion and use their pectoral fins for stability and steering. Some species have the capability to grow fleshy appendages called cirri on their bodies. This gives them the ability to camouflage as sea weed, or blending in to a sea fan.

Yellow pygmy seahorse at Exotic Island Dive Resort
Pygmy Sea horses comes in many colors,

When it comes to finding a mate, the seahorses are known to bond with their partner for life. After finding a partner the seahorse couple will meet first thing every morning to reinforce their partnership with a elaborate display of courtship. The female meets the male in his territory and as they approach each other they change color. The male circles around the female and then the pair often spiral around an object such as a coral. This can last for up to an hour before the female goes back to her territory.

The Seahorse male is the only creature where reversed pregnancy happens. The female transfers her eggs to the male who then fertilizes them in his pouch. Some species can have up to 1500 eggs! After 2 to 4 weeks the eggs hatch and the baby seahorses emerges.  They are called Fry. From the moment they are born they are completely on their own. Unfortunately less than 1 in a thousand makes it to adulthood.

Common seahorse at Malapascua Exotic Island Dive Resort
Here is a almost white seahorse at
Malapascua Lighthouse.
Sadly most species of seahorses are today endangered because of  the threat from both aquariums,  traditional medicine and souvenirs trade. Yearly, approximately 150 million seahorses are being fished for medicine use alone. 1 million seahorses are sold as souvenirs. Another million are being taken for aquariums were only 1000 survive longer than 6 weeks!

So how can you help these beautiful critters?

First of all - Don't buy any seahorse souvenirs. Second - Boycott any shop that does sell seahorse souvenirs. Thirdly please don't visit shops, restaurants or bars that keeps seahorses in aquariums. Lastly if you can please don't just walk away, please also let the establishment know why you are not using their services. The more people that raise their voice, the more of a reaction we can get!

Want to see your first seahorse or want to capture some more pictures for your collection? Come and visit! Here you will find them in the sea! We also promote responsible interaction so we can all keep on enjoying the privilege of diving with these beautiful creatures!

Yellow tiger tail seahorse at Gato island
A yellow Tigertail seahorse hiding at Gato Island,

No comments:

Post a Comment