Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Strange sea creature

19 May 2011

According to the Greek mythology, Hippo-campus was a fabulous sea creature with a horse’s head and a fish’s tail and it was believed that they drew Neptune’s chariot, the sea king.

But then what’s in a name? A seahorse is not a horse, instead is a fish unlike a fish. It swims almost upright with a graceful upper body. Its eyes operate independently of each other. Instead of scales it has protective bony plates and possesses a strong tail to grasp vegetation, coral or another seahorse.

There are about 40 species of seahorses in several colours and shapes, who are 5 to 30cm long, survive for one to four years. The most unique feature of these creatures is that instead of the females, male seahorses breed and may rise up to six broods in a single season.

They camouflage against their predators by changing colours or with leafy outgrowths on their body. Due to rigid armour plating, seahorses cannot move swiftly through the water thus glide along slowly. A tiny, vibrating fin at the back acts as propeller, it also helps them to regulate the volume of gases in their bodies thereby controlling their movement.

Interestingly adult male and female seahorses religiously dance every morning to confirm their bonding as well as their territorial rights. They swallow tiny crustaceans and planktons through their long tubular snorts, and anchor themselves in water with their apprehensible tails to seaweeds or other fellow beings to shun danger. Seahorses are found in the world’s warmer coastal waters ~ Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans apart from the north European waters.

Unfortunately, recent times have witnessed their dwindling numbers at a fast pace, mainly due to pollution and climate change. Another major threat is indiscriminate harvesting of the animal particularly in South-East Asia. Over 20 million seahorses are harvested each year and used in the traditional Asian medicines apart from being used as souvenirs.

Thus they are one of the endangered species and measures have been taken to improve their numbers through captive breeding, setting up of reserve marine areas and persuading fishing communities to reduce harvesting.

However, much depends upon our sensibilities and sensitivity.

bratin ghosh, Class VII
The Heritage School

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