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Seahorse Survival

Several baby white seahorses On its own, a baby seahorse has a lot to contend with. On average, if the population is stable, only two of the thousands of young that a pair produces will reach maturity. Life doesn't become much easier as an adult; the seahorse must still avoid its natural predators, such as crab, tuna, skates, and rays. Storms are probably the biggest natural cause of death for adult seahorses because they tear seahorses from their holdfasts, to be cast ashore or die of exhaustion.

Place humans into the picture and the odds worsen. Because it is a slow-swimming fish, the seahorse has to rely on camouflage to escape capture. In addition, it is found in easy-to-reach coastal waters. It has few ways to avoid being caught.

Seahorses are sought after for a variety of reasons:

  • Chinese medicine
    Chinese and other asian cultures have been using seahorses in medicine for 400 to 500 years. The seahorse is believed to cure impotency and asthma, lower cholesterol, and prevent arteriosclerosis. A delicacy in cooking, the seahorse is also thought to enhance virility.

  • Aquariums
    Hobbyists are often enchanted by these peculiar-looking fish, and buy them for home aquariums. However, seahorses are very difficult to keep because they require live brine shrimp for food and are prone to disease in a contained environment.

  • Souvenirs
    Dried seahorses are used to fashion keychains, jewelry, paperweights, and other souvenirs.

In addition to direct human threats, the seahorse's habitat is also threatened. Seahorses live in sea grass beds, mangroves, or coral reefs, which can be destroyed through trawling, dredging, polluting, or even intense storms.

No one knows exactly how many seahorses there are in the world. Because of this, and because of the high demand for the seahorse, conservationists are working hard to ensure this magical fish has a future.

Photo © Rudie Kuiter

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