Friday, July 27, 2012

Just Seahorsing Around...

I'm writing to you all from the new blog-writing headquarters of my apartment! Finally, I can say that. Phew, it's been a long time coming. I have yet to purchase wifi, so I'm literally sitting in the middle of the living room floor, held captive by my finite amount of ethernet cord, typing to you out there in cyberspace. I sacrifice so much for you! All in a day's blogging.

Seahorses are probably God's cutest marine creation, I have to say. Except for maybe a bottlenose dolphin or a baby fur seal...oh my gosh, those seals are so adorable!! Getting back on track, no one really knows how many species of seahorses there are in the world. (One conservation group says they officially recognize a mere 38 species, even though over 100 species have been proposed!) Scientists have proposed many species, but usually they are mistaken for a species already known. This happens quite often since seahorses are constantly changing their appearance to blend with their surroundings.
Camouflage at its best. Can you spot the seahorse?
How big do you think they are? They look pretty small from the pictures, so small, right? The biggest (Big-bellied seahorse) can get 30 cm or more; the smallest, however, can get as tiny as under 2 cm (Pygmy seahorse). If you want to go out and look for one, bring your underwater magnifying glass! Just kidding, they might not even make those...Anywho, if someone comes across one, it's more serendipity than anything. My family and some friends had serendipity at the beach in Florida this summer!
It was right after tropical storm Debby had passed through the Gulf of Mexico and we were on the panhandle of Florida. The jellyfish were rampant; we had spotted at least 5 in a couple hours just floating into the sandbar/shoreline from the open ocean. If we kept our feet still for just a few seconds, we could feel the nipping minnows on our toes. Pelicans were diving, shark fins had been spotted, sand crabs scuttling along the sand, it was just crazy. I mean, compared to the abundance of life just the day before, which was barely anything. 
Okay, so we had this lemonade jar that we caught jellyfish with. Every 10-15 minutes we would see one and one of the boys would simply dunk the container and somehow come up with a jellyfish floating in the jar. Then the little kids around would want to see it before we set it free and so on. We repeated this set of actions multiple times. 
A short-snouted seahorse.
All of the sudden one of the boys comes up to me and my friend and shoves the lemonade jar in our faces. Guess what it is? Yes, this tiny barely a few centimeters long seahorse. Colored like a maroon or deep red. It was just floating in the middle of the ocean! I couldn't help but think of the atrocities it had been through on its journey here. We made our usual rounds to everyone on the beach who wanted to see it and then let it go. I miss that little guy!
One of the coolest things about seahorses is that the males actually give birth to their young. At some point during the mating process, the female will put her eggs into the male's pouch. From there, the male will fertilize the eggs inside the pouch. So fertilization actually occurs in the male! Weird, but amazing. I think one of the first things I learned about seahorses was the fact that the dad "did all the work" when it came to making babies. 
Maybe something else that's not as known about these guys is that they are monogamous. In other words, a boy and a girl get together, make some new seahorses, and never mate with another for the rest of their lives. In the animal kingdom, you see a lot of species that just mate with the nearest female they can impress. It's quite special to see monogamy in animals! 
Be sure to check out the Causes tab above! One of them is about saving seahorses from overfishing (yes, people overfish seahorses) and other threats. Talk to y'all later!


Nancy Robinson said...

I always learn a lot from you!

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