- Marine Life
- 28 Jan 2015 7:11 pm
Here on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, on the Costa Brava, we encounter two species of European seahorses: Hippocampus hippocampus, the short-snouted seahorse, and Hippocampus guttulatus, the long-snouted or spiny seahorse. The descriptive names do not help very much in differentiating between the two species when conducting our marine research underwater with wild seahorses. There is not much observable difference in the length of the snouts especially in young individuals; and the "non spiny" Hippocampus hippocampus can actually be quite spiny, i.e. covered in frilly appendages, particularly around the head.
Below are two photos from my ever expanding seahorse photo base that clearly show the difference between the two species. The Spiny seahorse (left) is a female Hippocampus guttulatus - she has a waist! On the right is a heavily pregnant male Hippocampus hippocampus, or Short-snouted seahorse.
Another way to tell them apart is by the coronet. In Hippocampus hippocampus the coronet is a bit more obvious as it stands up with an indentation behind it, at the neck, and is usually somewhat less spiny (frilly). These subtle differences can be quite difficult to discern especially when the animal is so well camouflaged and often half hidden amongst seagrass or algae. Identification is further challenged by the need to hover centimeters off the bottom so as not to stir up sediment, destroy habitat or disturb these sensitive creatures.
Volunteer research divers who join Kenna Eco Diving in our Seahorse Project commit to several weeks in order to make a real contribution to our understanding of these "Data Deficient" species. For most scuba divers it is a real priviledge to see a seahorse up close in the wild. Seahorses are iconic species facing many threats to their survival. They are caught for Chinese medicine and curios in their millions and many more also turn up as by-catch from trawler fishing. Furthermore their fragile habitats are being destroyed at an alarming rate.
If you would like to know more about seahorses and our Seahorse Project follow the link.