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The Seahorse (genus Hippocampus) gets its name because of its general look.
Swimming vertically with bendt head and tail, gives it the appearance of a horse.
Seahorse eyes, another notable physical feature, move independent of each other, helping them to spot food or enemies. Many seahorse species also can change color, as camouflage to protect them from their marine enemies.
Notwithstanding looks, the seahorse is a true fish that lives in tropical or semi-tropical waters around the world.
Males are responsible for child bearing. Females deposit into a pouch on the male, who then fertilizes them and carries them to term. Once born, baby seahorses are on their own.
Most experts currently identify around thirty five seahore species, with expectations of new discoveries. However, seahorse popularity and their exploitation for medicinal uses, aquarium pets and souvenirs, has placed great stress on population levels. Experts estimated population declines of anywhere from 25% to 75%, depending on species.
To address the issue of declining seahorse populations, seahorses were listed in Appendix II of CITES, the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species, which means that permits are required for anyone who exports them. Currently Florida is the only state in the United States that allows seahorse harvesting for export.
Who buys these seahorses? According to the U.S. Government, "The largest importers for dried seahorses are China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, with an estimated annual consumption of 45 tons (16 million seahorses) in Asia. Seahorses are sold as whole, dried animals for preparation into tonics. There has been a recent increase in numbers of seahorses used in prepared medicines (pills) in Asia, possibly in response to decreases in size of individuals obtained in fisheries catch. Seahorses are also used in traditional medicines in Indonesia, the Philippines, and India, and at least eight seahorse medicines are now sold in North America.
Dried seahorses are also utilized as curios with a high availability in beach resorts and shell shops around the world.
Live specimens for aquarium pets are exported primarily to North America, Europe, Japan, and Taiwan. Five species are preferred for aquaria, including four Indo-Pacific species in the Hippocampus histrix complex and H. kuda complex, and one North American species, H. erectus. Virtually all aquarium seahorses come from the wild. Seahorses are highly unsuitable aquarium fishes, and few survive in captivity."
Finally, habitat destruction from human development of coastal areas and climate change impacts on coral reefs, also contributes to declining seahorse populations.
© 2005-2009. Patricia A. Michaels. All Rights Reserved.