Thorny Seahorse found at the Orient Beach (East London)

Last Thursday (11 May 2017) it was reported to the museum that a seahorse had been found and released at the Orient Beach (East London). Shane Roach contacted the museum after listening to the radio programme called ‘Our World’ on WCFM 98.6 Mhz (every Thursday at 16h30). During the program museum scientist, Kevin Cole, reported on a number of unusual marine specimens which had washed up during a spell of very cold water. Shane shared a record of a brightly coloured seahorse which had been found by Roger Elliot on Saturday 6th May 2017. Sea temperatures had dropped below 11 degrees Celsius during the preceding week. The seahorse was identified as Hippocampus histrix, the Thorny Seahorse.


Thorny Seahorse, Hippocampus histrix, found by Roger Elliot of East London

SAIAB (South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity) fish scientist, Ofer Gon, was contacted about the find. He detailed previous records lodged at SAIAB for the East London area. These are listed below:

SAIAB 1380 – Kaysers Beach, 01/May/1969

SAIAB 38532 – Haga-Haga, 01/April/1989

SAIAB 39242 – East London, Harbor mouth, 10/May/1991

Seahorses occur worldwide in tropical and temperate seas. The most common seahorse along our coast is Hippocampus kuda. See an earlier post on this (14th September 2011).

Their  bodies are armoured with dermal plates forming a tubular series of rings. They have a small mouth at the end of a snout. The body has no scales and there is a difference in size between males and females. The males can carry eggs which have been fertilised either on a concealed pouch or a fold of skin or the eggs can be exposed. Seahorses vary in size from 2-65 cm.

This was a special find for East London, considering the last one was in 1991 and Shane and Roger are thanked for revealing this marine species to the museum.

Reference: Coastal Fishes of southern Africa by Phil and Elaine Heemstra (SAIAB 2004).

About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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