Seahorses

Discover fascinating facts about the H. hippocampus and the H. guttulatus

Seahorses in Portugal?
  • There are about 54 different seahorse species in the world, mainly in North and South America, but also in Europe. Sheltered shallow water of a temperature between 19 and 23˚C, with lots of stuff to hold onto like seaweed, sea grass or coral, is the ideal habitat of these fish.
  • In Portugal, you’ll find them in the Algarve. The Ria Formosa lagoon is home to what’s probably the highest concentration of seahorses in the world, featuring mainly the long-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus guttulatus), but also the short-snouted seahorses (Hippocampus hippocampus).

 

Lucky charm

  • Up until 20 years ago, dried seahorses could be bought on Algarvian markets, whereas many fishermen used to give the seahorses they encountered in their nets away to family and friends instead of chucking them back overboard. Why? Because they were considered lucky charms.
  • This is linked to their status as mythical creatures; the ancient Greeks depicted the sea god Poseidon in a chariot pulled by seahorses. Unfortunately, nowadays seahorses are still used as aphrodisiacs, ornaments or in traditional eastern medicine. As a result of this, and also because of habitat destruction, they’re an endangered species.
Breeding in captivity
  • With seahorses, it’s the male who is pregnant and gives birth. In 2007, Algarve-based marine biologists Miguel Correia and Jorge Palma were among the first people in the world to successfully and continuously breed the long-snouted seahorse (H. guttulatus) in captivity, in the Ramalhete Field Station in Faro.
  • Aiming to keep the seahorses from extinction, in 2016 the men also began to breed the short-snouted seahorse (H. hippocampus) in captivity. Read more about their seahorse breeding programme here.

Look, but don’t touch

  • If you want to go snorkelling with seahorses, which is possible in the Algarve’s Ria Formosa, make sure not to disturb them.
  • This includes minimising your impact on the fish and their environment by behaving in a calm manner, snorkelling without fins, and taking care not to come in contact with the seahorses and their habitat. Basically: look, but don’t touch.

 

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine December 2017

Posted in Typical Portugal.