Seahorses With Dr. Tom Byrnes
The long-snout Seahorse, Hippocampus reidi (greek: horse/sea monster), share the family Syngnathidae with the pipefishes, is found from brazil to North Carolina. They can be found in floating Sargassum, on gorgonians, mangroves and seagrasses to a maximum depth of 160 feet. They can reach a length of 9 inches and can change color displaying black, brown, yellow, red and even spotted. Seahorses are ambush predators slurping-up unsuspecting small fish and crustaceans. Movement is limited as the body is heavily armored with just the tiny dorsal and pectoral fins undulating.
They can live to be 4 and are pair-bonded exhibiting highly structured social behavior and vital parental care, especially the male. The female inserts up to 1600 eggs in the males pouch which then seals during development. In about 2 weeks eggs hatch releasing perfect miniatures. This cycle can be repeated every 30 days though out most of the year. They are cryptic and blend in with their surroundings however you would think we should see more of these critters
Seahorses have very few natural predators; thankfully since humans more than make sure they remain listed as “threatened” by CITES since 2004. They are killed as bycatch in shrimp trawl fisheries, traded and collected in the Americas as aquarium fishes (one large pair can fetch 350 dollars!), folk medicine, curiosities and even a trendy Asian food. Shallow water habitats like mangroves and seagrass beds are also being hammered. It is painfully obvious there is a dearth of knowledge concerning the abundance and distribution of these curious looking creatures which are always a rare treat for anyone lucky enough to watch them in the wild.
About the Author: Dr. Tom Byrnes has been running dive charters in Grand Cayman for 30 years making him one of the most knowledgeable captains on the water today. Cayman Marine Lab started as a strictly academic endeavor teaching college students tropical marine biology but as it turns out the hunger for a marine biologist to show and teach tourist divers the secrets of the reefs and various other marine habitats was overwhelming. CML is the adventure dive operation in that we go out of our way to bring you to the least dived reefs Cayman has to offer…and what a difference it makes.