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Seahorse Surveys

 

Seahorses are currently facing great challenges in the wild, including habitat degradation and overexploitation, and how they will endure additional stress from rapid climate change has yet to be determined. Unlike most fishes, the poor swimming skills of seahorses, along with the ecological and biological constraints of their unique lifestyle, place great weight on their physiological ability to cope with climate changes. Future ocean changes, particularly ocean acidification, may further threaten seahorse conservation, turning these charismatic fishes into important flagship species for global climate change issues.  In Cambodia and particularly around the Koh Rong Archipelago, we have identified nine species of this wonderfully charismatic animal.

 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature currently recognizes 44 species of seahorse. All are either endangered or we do not yet have enough information about them. Conservation Cambodia helps by adding our seahorse observations to an international database.​

In Cambodia and particularly around the Koh Rong Archipelago, we have identified nine species of this wonderfully charismatic animal

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Seahorses pictured above (not our own photos)

  • Tiger Tail Seahorse (Hippocampus comes)

    • Identified by its double cheek spines, prominent nose spine, blunt spikes on its body, a low coronet, small head relative to its body size and of course its striped tail.

  • Barbour’s Seahorse (Hippocampus barbouri)

    • Identified by its two pairs of cheek spines, a prominent nose spine, stripes on its snout and a spine in front of its coronet

  • The spiny Seahorse (Hippocampus histrix)

    • Identified by its long snout, a single cheek spine, sharp spines on its coronet, a prominent nose spine and sharp body spines.

  • Winged seahorse (Hippocampus alatus)

    • Identified by paired flattened spines behind the head that point outward, sometimes with skin flaps (resembling wings) and thy have no nose spine.

  • Hedgehog Seahorse (Hippocampus spinosissimus)

    • Identified by a low or absent nose spine single or double cheek spines blunter and shorter body spines

  • Three-Spot Seahorse (Hippocampus trimaculatus)

    • Identified by it hook like cheek spine, hook like eye spine, and tree dark spots along the back of its body.

  • Common Seahorse (Hippocampus kuda)

    • Identified by a deep fat body, a low round coronet, and its spines are more like rounded bumps.

  • Kellogg’s Seahorse (Hippocampus kelloggi)

    • Identified by its distinct coronet, thin body, thick trunk rings, and a long backward pointing cheek spine.

  • Japanese seahorse (Hippocampus mohnikei)

    • Identified by a small body maximum 8cm, very short snout compared to its head, ronded double cheek spines.

More About Seahorses

 

They have excellent eyesight and their eyes are able to work independently on either side of their head. This means they can look forwards and backwards at the same time! This is particularly useful as they hunt for food by sight.

 

Seahorses pair for life. They meet first thing in the morning to reinforce their pair bonding with an elaborate courtship display. The female meets the male in his territory and as they approach each other, they change color. The male circles around the female and the pair often spiral around an object. This display can last for up to an hour. Once over, the female goes back to her territory.

 

Females have a territory of about 90 square meters and males have a territory of about 0.75 square meters. The seahorse is the only creature where the male carries the young. The female transfers her eggs to the male which he self-fertilizes in his pouch. The number of eggs can vary from 50-150 for smaller species to 1500 for larger species. The young receive everything they need in the pouch, gestation time varies from 14 days to 4 weeks.

Survey Techniques

The Transect Method

Using the transect method we carefully (as not to disturb the substrate) lay out two 50 meter transect tapes on the seabed laying parallel 4mtrs apart, each tape has a two man team, a scribe and a searcher each team then swims the length of the team searching for and recording what is found two meters either the side of each tape.

 

We record species, bottom depth, sex, torso length, snout length and if the individual is pregnant, a note is also taken of the bottom composition.

The Roving Method

Using the roving method we take a random bearing in various locations and carefully lay out one 50 meter transect tape on the seabed. In this case, we have teams of two with a scribe and a searcher. Each team then swims the length of the tape searching for and recording what is found two meters on either the side of the transect.

We also record species, bottom depth, sex, torso length, snout length and if the individual is pregnant or juvenile.

The roving method allows monitoring in pairs and can be conducted in various locations with suitable and potential habitat to find seahorses close to the local area being monitored and surveyed.

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