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Friday, September 10, 2010

Rare Dwarf Seahorse Threatened by BP Spill

The Dwarf Seahorse, a rare and elusive creature to begin with, is threatened with the possibility of extinction due to the notorious oil spill that began April 20, 2010. These seahorses swell only in shallow waters throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Bahamas. Because seahorses are poor swimmers, this species, like others of its kind, spend much of their time clinging to sea grasses. Unfortunately, clumps of vegetation near the oil spill were an easy destination for the heavy oil, collecting in the plants. The dark, clumpy oil starved the sea grasses, and the seahorses of light and oxygen. Aside from the murk and muck in the grasses caused simply by the oil, further complication arose when oil clean-up began to include setting such plant life ablaze, and releasing millions of gallons of toxic oil dispersent. Seahorses tend to produce relatively few offspring, and the grasses killed by the oil will need years to regrow. It is unclear how the oil and the dispersents may affect adults' hormones, or the health of newborn seahorse fry.

Dwarf seahorses are among the smallest species of seahorse, growing to only about two inches long. As with all seahorses, the males are the ones to become pregnant, carrying the babies for approximately ten days. They are carnivores, despite their small size, subsisting off baby brine shrimp and other shrimp larvae. Aside from the recent oil spill, the species has been threatened by the aquarium trade and from being bycatch during trawling. The size of the population is unknown, as they are rare, very small, and generally unresearched. Conservation efforts currently only involve regulations on the aquarium trade industry.

1 comment:

  1. I am very sorry to hear about the danger to the dwarf seahorses. We saw out first one on a dive in Cozumel in 2008- so tiny the Divemaster held a white card behind it to make it more visible.
    Their grassy homes would be very vulnerable to the oil.
    Thanks for the article, CC !!!