March 20, 2015
A group of captive-bred big belly seahorses has gone on public display at Hastings Blue Reef Aquarium.
The 20-strong colony were born at the Rock-a-Nore Road attraction’s sister aquarium in Bristol and are part of a new seahorse breeding programme.
They are members of what’s thought to be the largest species of seahorse in the world – the Australian big-belly – which can reach up to 20cms in length.
“They have settled in really well and several of the males have already been seen displaying to the females and taking part in courtship rituals which is a very positive sign,” said Blue Reef’s Leanna Lawson.
The seahorse is unique in the animal kingdom in that it is the male rather than the female which carries the babies and gives birth to them via a special brood pouch on their stomach.
When hatched the babies are about the size of their father’s snout and remain close to dad, often darting back inside his pouch for protection when danger looms.
Seahorses actually have two skeletons – an inner one like humans and a special outer skeleton which is made up of bony interlocking plates.
This heavy armour is necessary because the seahorse is slow-moving and cannot defend itself very well – the armour also acts as camouflage, making the vulnerable creature look like a piece of seaweed to any would-be hunter.
In the wild virtually all of the approximate 35 species of seahorse are now under threat from a variety of sources.
These include loss of habitat, pollution, the souvenir trade and traditional Far East medicine – believed to account for the deaths of more than 20 million seahorses annually.
The big-bellied seahorses at Hastings are part of a captive-breeding programme which aims to ease the pressure on wild populations.