Seahorses…even camouflage can’t help them now

Effects of Climate Change 1.8

Seahorses have a lot going for them in terms of their abilities. They are excellent assassins (90% kill rate), they’re great at camouflaging, and they have dextrous tails. However, climate change isn’t in their favor.

Hippocampus guttulatus, Photo credit: http://pixdaus.com/files/items/pics/6/2/566602_a4f020c10bc1d5ff7e6bb72d1de7a891_large.jpg

On top of overexploitation and habitat degradation, climate change is adding additional stress to these small creatures. In one study, the seahorse species, Hippocampus guttulatus (see photo on left), was studied to determine the effects that climate could have on the seahorses.

What the researchers found was that ocean acidification had the greatest impact on the species, and that while the adult H. guttulatus presented with somewhat of a tolerance to higher temperatures, the combination of acidification and warming was too much for the seahorses.

When exposed to lower pH, their feeding rates decreased dramatically, ventilation decreased, and activity rates slowed. Decreased ventilation rates in the seahorses was predicted to affect reproduction and growth rates.

Photo credit: Pierre Metivier / James D. Watt/J.H. Editorial

And remember, seahorses can’t simply migrate somewhere else — they’re terrible swimmers.

And in terms of the number of habitats that are aesthetically complex so as to fully utilize their camouflage defense strategy, they’re also limited.

Not to mention that seahorses already have low fecundity rates, meaning that they don’t produce many young. Seahorses mate for life (aww), and so if separated from their mate for some reason, it’s unlikely that they’ll have a second mate due to low population distribution and density.

Only time will tell if seahorses will be able to adapt to this rapidly changing world. But let’s not wait and sea — let’s make positive change happen now.

Claudia A.

References:

Faleiro1*, F.; Baptista1, M.; Santos1, C.; Aurélio1, M. L.; Pimentel1, M.; Pegado1, M. R.; Paula1, J. R.; Calado2, R.; and, T. R. Filipa Faleiro http://conphys.oxfordjournals.org/content/3/1/cov009.full (accessed Oct 15, 2016).

Kearns, L. 11 Facts That Prove Seahorses Are Among The Most Fascinating Fish In The Sea http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/25/amazing-seahorse-facts_n_6927186.html (accessed Oct 15, 2016).

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