Monday, May 17, 2010

See Sea Horses?


My students and I found more seahorses on this years trip into the Gulf than we have on previous trips over the last few years. The variety of shapes, colors, and size was pretty amazing too.

I don't pretend to be a seahorse taxonomist, but I think the seahorse above is a lined seahorse, H. erectus.
It was pretty big compared to most of our seahorse round up. Of course, this time of year, everything is a baby out there in the grass, so you expect some dramatic variation in size.


The seahorse above and the one below are notable for their small size AND the fact that both males seem to be well along in incubating the female's eggs in their pouches.

Despite the dramatic difference in color, I think these two are the same species ... perhaps a dwarf seahorse?


Pregnant male seahorses were released by the way.
We did bring back a nonpreggars pony and it is living in our aquarium for just a few weeks until everything gets released near the end of the school year ... (ABOUT 15 SCHOOL DAYS FROM NOW ... WOOHOO!)

Where you find seahorses, you find pipefish. This is a beautiful specimen with what appears to be a pouch, so we let this one go also.

Pipefish are closely related to seahorses ... almost as if you took a seahorse and straightened him out.
I wasn't keeping an accurate count, but I think we spotted about 8 seahorses between the two trips. Seahorses are incredibly hard to find in the seaweed and grass that comes up in the net, so finding 8 means we were probably close to a lot more that went back overboard ...undiscovered ...with the net debris.
You can tell who really wants to find a seahorse by watching the kids when the net comes aboard and spills it's wonders on to the boat deck.
For the most part, you find a seahorse by sticking a handful of seaweed close to your face and slowly searching for a well camouflaged and probably small seahorse entwined among the "branches" of the seaweed.
The kid with his nose in the gracilaria is a serious seahorse hunter. The kid hurridly tossing it out of the boat is not.
When a seahorse is discovered on these trips, whether it is the first one or the fifth one, it generates lots of excitement.
(Kinda like seeing dolphins ... that should always excite you even if you see them often)
Most kids don't seem to see a seahorse as a fish, so you have to remind them constantly to get it in the water and not pass it around like a hermit crab or a sand dollar.
We had the same issue with the batfish, but that's another story ... and a video.

22 comments:

Dani said...

Those are some lucky kids to have you as a teacher! You're just the coolest!!!!!!!!!!!

Floridagirl said...

Wow! Wonderful seahorse photos! Those kids are indeed lucky! I want to go back to school. Seriously, it's been years since we took our kids out into the grassflats on a pontoon boat. I think it's time again. Can't wait to see your next post.

threecollie said...

Always been a horse lover..now even more so.

robin andrea said...

It must be pretty incredible to grow up in a place where this kind of experience is part of the curriculum. Wonderful stuff, FC.

tai haku said...

You are officially the coolest teacher ever. I totally agree with your call on the H. erectus. For me ponies 2 and 3 are Hippocampus zosterae and I'll really chance my arm and take a guess the pipefish might be a shortfin (Cosmocampus elucens) or something very similar...... I can't believe how lame my bio field trips were compared to this....

Shawn said...

Very cool! What age kids are these. Many moons ago our marine biology class in high school would go down to the bay in Gulf Breeze. Your class will always remember doing that. What age do you teach?

Anonymous said...

Hi FC,

Si si señor. Si, I see sea horses!

Patio

PS Imágenes muy frescas!!!

Felicia said...

That's very cool! I didn't know seahorses and pipefish occurred off the Florida coast—what a neat treat this must have been for your students!

Florida Beach Basics said...

I reckon you're putting some fresh seaweed in with your seahorse every day so he/she can eat the little critters coming off it? love the "snap" they make when they are eating.

Ericka said...

SO JEALOUS! i love seahorses, and it makes me sad how hard it is to keep them happy and healthy in aquariums. *sigh*

so very very cool!

Floridacracker said...

Dani,
Thanks! Pretty cool to be in such a fishy place!

FG,
I can grassflats drift all day long. So much to see.


3C,
You probably don't see many green ones in PA. LOL!


Robin,
I wish we could get out there more than once a year! $$$$ is in short supply these days.


Tai,
Official!
Thanks for the ID info. There seems to be a real dearth of Seahorse ID sites that aren't about exotic aquarium horses from far off places.


Shawn,
These kids are highschool from 10 to 12th grade in an honors Marine Science class.


Patio,
Muy bien!
Hey, guess what kind of cake is sitting in front of me.


Felicia,
Oh yeah, and they range around the Gulf and up the east coast beyond Florida.

Marge,
We brought back some, but I can't get out there each day. We are hatching some brine shrimp for them too.
There stay will be brief and then it's back in the Gulf.

Ericka,
I hear ya. I usually choose very carefree marine fish, but once a year we invite the seahorses in.

amarkonmywall said...

These are beautiful little creatures- I've never seen so many varieties before. You share so much wonderful news with so many people- thanks!

Deb said...

Wow. Live sea horses! I remember a couple of dead ones given to me, don't remember from whom they came, but to see live ones is awesome! Like all the other sea life out there.

I just did an educational program to class after class of fifth graders (including one Starflower) at a county environmental fair. It was fun to see the looks on those kids' faces as I showed them the live fish. You are doing a great thing, getting them out there in the midsto of things.

Sandcastle Momma said...

That is so cool! I never see them around here but have seen many in St Joe Bay. They must not like our grass beds.
And I know what you mean about getting excited over dolphin - I see them almost every day and each time I get just as excited as the tourists who see them for the first time.
Magical.

Anonymous said...

Hi FC,

Man oh man........didn't know you had such a mean streak! You just have to rub in that you get that delicious cake on a regular basis and I have to wait a year for such wonderfulness.

p

threecollie said...

NY

debbie said...

Over the years we've seen several seahorses at St. Teresa Beach. It's so cool to see them in the wild instead of a fishtank.

Kimberly said...

How great! I've never seen a sea horse in the wild before. WOW! I'll be combing the sandbar this summer!

LaDivaCucina said...

Oh, I've never seen a sea horse in the actual ocean before! They are so magical and darn cute. All I see in the ocean by my house are tourist! hehe!

Spetty said...

Does any one know who you would contact about wildlife clean up in Louisiana and Florida when the oil hits the beaches and wildlife?

robin charlotte humphrey said...

these are amazing seahorses! what cool post! They always excite me and I see the everyday!!

Anonymous said...

Not a pouch--that is actually a female Gulf Pipefish. Like seahorses, only males have pouches in which they carry the brood, which is located farther back on ventral side of the body. Large adult female Gulf Pipefish, like the one shown, develop a keel on the breast that looks a bit like a pouch, and silvery bars to attract males. Nice photo.