The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Seahorse Evolution

Just how did seahorses make the leap from ordinary fish to extraordinary oddity? Damselfish photo by Klaus Stiefel When you look at a seahorse, it’s easy to wonder how such a bizarre creature could come to be. The seahorse’s behavior and appearance is so radically different from most other fish that one can’t help but ponder how they evolved into what we see today. With it’s unusual horse-like head, chameleon eyes, monkey tail, kangaroo pouch and insect-like armor; how did did it evolve to be so strange? To understand that, we need to look at some of the seahorses relatives. One issue we face with discovering how seahorses evolved is the lack of fossils. There are a few fossils that show some early seahorses, but like most sea-dwelling creatures, it’s a very limited number. Fortunately for us, many of it’s living relatives give us a glimpse at the seahorse’s evolutionary path. While these relatives aren’t exactly what seahorses evolved from, they give a pretty clear picture of how changes over time go from subtle to extreme to become seahorses. First, we start out with the seahorse’s more normal but distant relatives. These are scorpion fish, a large group of ray finned fish. Some are elaborately ornate, like the lionfish. Photo by Christian Mehlführer Others are camouflaged to match their surroundings. Marbled Rock Fish. Photo by Nemo’s Great Uncle. Many though, look just like normal fish. Kelp Rockfish. Photo by Brian Gratwicke The next interesting ancestor analog is the stickleback. Many sticklebacks look like a pretty normal fish by all accounts. But their is something new starting. Sticklebacks are starting to develop the armored skeleton for protection, and lacks scales. But it’s still overall very fish-like. The male protects the eggs in a bubble nest he creates. The Three Spine Stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus pictured below still looks overall fish-like. Three Spine Stickleback. Photo by Jack Wolf Then we come to the Fifteen Spine Stickleback Spinachia spinachia. Its mouth is elongated, its body stretched out; it’s starting to look less like your common fish. In sticklebacks, the parental care is done by the male. This also is not uncommon in fish, with many males taking on the role of primary caregiver. Fifteen Spine Stickleback. Photo by Mark Thomas Now we come to the middle of the journey. Here we have trumpetfish, Aulostomus spp. Still fishlike, still swimming like a fish, but the mouth of a seahorse is clearly evident. It’s an open water spawner, with no parental care. We don’t know where it diverged from it’s common ancestors or why it’s a broadcast spawner, but other traits, such as the elongated body, and suction like mouth are similar to seahorses. Trumpetfish. Photo by Vlad Karpinskiy It’s body is still fish like, and it swims like most common fish; it shares a similar mouth shape to seahorses, but less refined. Trumpetfish head detail. Photo by Noodlefish An ancestor similar to the cornetfish Fistularia spp. probably came next. Also known as flutemouths, these elongated fish still swims mid water, but has reduced fins and a very long snout. They are probably the largest of the fish we’ll be looking at, with some species growing up to 6′ (~180cm). Blue Spotted Cornetfish. Photo by Kevin Bryant Next in line is the ghost pipefish, which grows only to a maximum of 6″ (~15cm). They are probably a branch off of a common ancestor that shared many of the traits seahorses do, but with some differences. These fish have started to move to caring for their eggs on their body, like most close seahorse relatives. However, it’s the female that carries the eggs, clutching them in her pelvic fins. Ornate Ghost Pipefish. Photo by Doug Anderson Flagtail pipefish are the next on this evolutionary ride. Care of the eggs is once again the realm of the males. Chances are it never left, but it’s not clear why some living relatives like the trumpetfish and ghost pipefish developed different reproductive strategies. It’s pretty clear this is the beginning of what we think of as the paternal care common in these fish. The male carries eggs laid by the female in an intricate dance along his belly. Dunckerocampus spp. carries the eggs on their bellies completely exposed, while Doryrhamphus spp. has a flap of skin that helps protect the eggs. Flagtail pipefish swim midwater much like the fish listed above. Banded Pipefish, a type of Flagtail Pipefish that swims mid-water. Photo by Lakshmi Sawitri From there we go to pipefish that carry the eggs at the base of their tails, some in partial pouches, later with pouches that almost entirely encase the eggs. Most still have a tail fin, but it is getting smaller. They slither close to surfaces, using their bodies as anchors. Many use their bodies and even their tails to help grip on to rocks, seagrass, or floating algae. Dragonface Pipefish. Photo by Philippe Guillaume There are at least 200 species of pipefish, with a dizzying array of body types and behaviors. Some live in seagrass beds, others on coral reefs. Some are only 2″ (~5cm) long, but the biggest species grows to over 2′ (~60cm). The photo below shows a literal handful of different species found off the coast of North America. Several pipefish of different species found off the coast of North America. Photo by Roger Shaw Now we start to see an amazing transformation. Pygmy pipehorses are the next in this evolutionary march. These tiny fish are all 2.5″ (~65cm) or smaller in length. They hitch just like seahorses and lack a tail fin, and their body is starting to take the angular shape that seahorses have, but their heads are still overall in alignment with their long bodies. Interestingly, males prefer to keep their body vertically, but females perch more upright, similar to seahorses. West Atlantic Pygmy Pipehorse Amphelikturus dendriticus. Photo by Stig Thormodsrud Pygmy pipehorses are loosely grouped as pipefish-like pygmy pipehorses and seahorse-like pygmy pipehorses because of how similar they are to one or the other. The first of which is the pipefish-like pygmy pipehorses. They do not have a tail fin, instead using their prehensile tails to grasp onto algae and wait for food to swim by. They are frequently misidentified as pipefish or missed all together because of their diminutive size. Short Pouch Pygmy Pipehorse Acentronura-tentaculata Photo by Nick Hobgood The seahorse-like pygmy pipehorses could almost be mistaken for seahorses. One beautiful example is the Sydney Pygmy Pipehorse Idiotropiscis lumnitzeri. They look much closer to that of a true seahorse, and even have some of the head structures that seahorses have. Pregnant male Sydney Pygmy Pipehorse. Notice the round area between his body and tail. Photo by Michael McKnight  The head is distinct from the body, the male has a full brood pouch at the base of the tail. The head can bend, but is usually held in alignment with the body. They don’t chase down prey; instead waiting for it to drift past their holdfast. Sydney Pygmy Pipehorse. Photo by Steve Gillespie And finally we get to seahorses, the strangest fish of them all. They’ve made the leap to standing upright most of the time, the bent head allowing for a longer reach to snap up prey. But like their distant ancestors, still relies on camouflage to hunt and gulps their prey whole; only this time through a straw. Pot Belly Seahorse hitched to sponge. Photo by Doug Anderson. I hope you enjoyed this look into seahorse evolution. As mentioned earlier, this is a rough map based on living relatives, not the exact ancestors of seahorses. Taxonomy, the study of how animals are related and categorized is always changing so we may find new information about these relationships as time goes on. But hopefully these examples will make it easier to understand how the seahorse became what it is today. Evolutionary Tree This entry was posted on Friday, January 10th, 2014 at 8:42 pm and is filed under Biology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

CORAL Magazine’s Captive Bred Marine Fish Species List for 2014

Green Chromis, although frequent spawners in the reef aquarium, finally made the Captive-Bred List in 2013. Captive-breeding: State of the Art 2014 CORAL Magazine’s updated and definitive captive-bred marine aquarium fish species list current through December 17th, 2013, by Tal Sweet. As soon as CORAL Magazine’s 2013 Captive-Bred Marine Fish Species List was published last year, new additions started to show up. Several species that were left off the 2013 list have now been added, as well as new species that were confirmed as being captive-bred during the year. More than 30 new species have been added to the list, bringing the total to over 250. While there haven’t been a lot of new species released commercially by the large aquaculture facilities this year, there have been some exciting developments. From ORA: Black Cardinalfish (Apogonichthyoides melas) Black Watchman Goby (Cryptocentrus fasciatus) Randall’s Assessor (Assessor randalli) From Bali Aquarich: Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) Clarion Angelfish (Holacanthus clarionensis) Maze Angelfish (Chaetodontoplus cephalareticulatus) From Rising Tide: Green Chromis (Chromis viridis) French Grunt (Haemulon flavolineatum) One of the more exciting additions to the list is the Red-Striped Pipefish (Dunckerocampus baldwini) bred by Jim Welsh in Northern California. Welsh’s work with the species yielded market-sized offspring in less than six months from the beginning of the project. (A report on this project will appear in the March/April 2014 issue of CORAL.) Following up her success last year with Genicanthus watenabei, Karen Brittain in Hawaii has continued to pursue angelfish breeding projects. She started off revisiting Reef Culture Technology’s success with Centropyge interruptus as part of her “A Girlfriend for Fabio” IndieGoGo campaign, and promising progress was made in the second half of 2013 pursuing a species first with Paracentropyge venusta. Hopefully we will be able to put the Venustus Angelfish the list next year. During 2013, in an effort to narrow down the definition of “what is” a captive-bred marine fish (along with other trade jargon), Richard Ross dedicated an issue of his Skeptical Reefkeeping series to the subject. See Ross, along with Kevin Erickson, has compiled a detailed list of terms and definitions used when referring to the origins of our marine livestock. The Marine Breeding Initiative (MBI) is in agreement with this “captive-bred” definition: “Captive bred fishes are organisms that were spawned and raised in tanks or other captive facilities on land.” We augment this to simply state that captive-breeding, to be regarded as truly successful, must at a minimum raise offspring to a juvenile, marketable size. The term “tank-raised” is often used in the freshwater aquarium livestock trade and likely predates any use of the phrase in the marine trade. In the freshwater trade, “tank-raised” is often synonymous with the aforementioned definition of “captive-bred” marine fish, but over the past several years “tank-raised” has become a very confusing, and perhaps unreliable or even abused, term when applied to marine fishes. Given the advent of harvesting the pre-settlement larvae of wild fishes, many species of marine fishes are now captive-grown without being captive-spawned. These fishes should, it is widely agreed, be sold as “tank-raised” and never as “captive-bred” or “CB.” Per Ross and Erickson, “tank-raised” carries its own definition in the marine trade: “Animals from eggs or pre-settlement larvae collected in the wild, then grown or raised in tanks in facilities on land.” As more focus is being placed on pelagic-spawning species such as tangs, butterflyfishes, and angelfishes, it is likely that we will be seeing a much broader range of captive-bred fishes available in the near future. It is truly an exciting time in the realm of captive breeding of marine fishes, and we look forward to what the future has in store. This list is as up to date as possible at the time of publication and was compiled with the help of Live Aquaria, ORA, Sustainable Aquatics, and Matthew Pedersen. Tal Sweet is a marine fish breeder whose company, Fishtal Propagations, produces clownfishes, dottybacks, gobies, and Banggai Cardinalfish in Waterford, Michigan. He is one of the founders of the Marine Breeding Initiative (MBI). The new 2014 Captive Bred Marine Fish Species List now supersedes the 2013 list.  Color coded perceived availability during 2013 has been included this year: Green = Commonly Available. Easy to find as a captive-bred fish, often from more than one source, throughout 2013. Blue – Moderate to Low. Might haven taken some searching, and availability may have been limited, but was reasonably obtainable as a captive-bred fish in 2013. Purple = Scarce. Generally only one source or breeder is known, and potentially only a handful of specimens may have been available. You may have “had to know someone” or even know the breeder directly in order to obtain them as captive-bred fish during 2013. Black = None. The authors and consulted parties were unaware of any retail availability of this species from a captive-bred source during 2013. Angelfishes (Pomacanthidae) Apolemichthys arcuatus, Bandit Angelfish Centropyge acanthops, African pygmy Angelfish Centropyge argi, Cherub Angelfish Centropyge colini,  Collins or Cocos Keeling Angelfish Centropyge debelius, Debelius Angelfish Centropyge fisheri, Fisher’s Angelfish Centropyge flavissima, Lemonpeel Angelfish Centropyge interruptus, Japanese Pygmy Angel Centropyge joculator, Joculator Angelfish Centropyge loricula, Flame Angelfish Centropyge multicolor, Multicolor Angelfish Centropyge resplendens, Resplendent Angelfish Chaetodontoplus cephalareticulatus, Maze Angelfish*,** Chaetodontoplus septentrionalis, Bluestriped Angelfish* Genicanthus personatus, Masked Angelfish Genicanthus watenabei, Blackedged Angelfish Holacanthus clarionensis, Clarion Angelfish Paracentropyge multifasciata, Multibar Angelfish Pomacanthus annularis, Annularis Angelfish Pomacanthus arcuatus, Gray Angelfish Pomacanthus asfur, Asfur Angelfish Pomacanthus maculosus, Yellowbar Angelfish Pomacanthus paru, French Angelfish Pomacanthus semicirculatus, Koran Angelfish Basslets (Serranidae)  Liopropoma carmabi, Candy Basslet Liopropoma rubre, Swissguard Basslet Batfishes (Ephippidae)  Chaetodipterus faber, Atlantic Spadefish Platax pinnatus, Pinnatus Batfish Platax orbicularis, Orbiculate Batfish Blennies (Blenniidae)  Chasmodes bosquianus, Striped Blenny Enchelyurus flavipes, Goldentail Comb-tooth Blenny Hypsoblennius hentz, Feather Blenny Meiacanthus atrodorsalis, Forktail Blenny Meiacanthus bundoon, Bundoon Blenny Meiacanthus grammistes, Striped Fang Blenny Meiacanthus mossambicus, Mozambique Fang Blenny Meiacanthus nigrolineatus, Blackline Fang Blenny Meiacanthus oualanensis, Canary Fang Blenny Meiacanthus smithi, Disco Blenny Meiacanthus tongaensis, Fang Blenny (Tonga) Parablennius marmoreus, Seaweed Blenny Petroscirtes breviceps, Mimic Fang Blenny Salaria pavo, Peacock Blenny Scartella cristata, Molly Miller Blenny Boxfishes (Ostraciidae) Acanthostracion quadricornis, Scrawled Cowfish Cardinalfishes (Apogonidae) Apogonichthyoides melas, Black Cardinalfish* Apogonichthyoides nigripinnis, Bullseye Cardinalfish* Cheilodipterus quinquelineatus, 5 Lined Cardinalfish Ostorhinchus compressus, Ochre-striped Cardinalfish Ostorhinchus cyanosoma, Yellowstriped Cardinalfish Ostorhinchus margaritophorus, Copper Lined Cardinalfish Pterapogon kauderni, Banggai Cardinalfish Pterapogon mirifica, Sailfin Cardinalfish Sphaeramia nematoptera, Pajama Cardinalfish Zoramia leptacantha, Threadfin Cardinalfish Marine Catfishes (Plotosidae) Plotosus lineatus, Striped Eel Catfish Clingfishes (Gobiesocidae)  Gobiesox punctulatus, Stippled Clingfish Gobiesox strumosus, Skilletfish Clownfishes (Pomacentridae)  Amphiprion akallopisos, Skunk Clownfish Amphiprion akindynos, Barrier Reef Clownfish Amphiprion allardi, Allard’s Clownfish Amphiprion barberi, Fiji Barberi Clownfish Amphiprion bicinctus, Red Sea (Two-Barred) Clownfish Amphiprion chrysogaster, Mauritian Clownfish Amphiprion chrysopterus, Orangefin Anemonefish Amphiprion clarkii, Clarkii Clownfish Amphiprion ephippium, Red Saddleback Clownfish Amphiprion frenatus, Tomato Clownfish Amphiprion latezonatus, Wide Band Clownfish Amphiprion leucokranos, Whitebonnet Clownfish Amphiprion mccullochi, McCulloch’s Clownfish Amphiprion melanopus, Cinnamon Clownfish Amphiprion nigripes, Blackfinned Clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris, Ocellaris Clownfish Amphiprion percula, Percula Clownfish Amphiprion perideraion, Pink Skunk Clownfish Amphiprion polymnus, Saddleback Clownfish Amphiprion rubrocinctus, Australian Clownfish Amphiprion sandaracinos, Orange Skunk Clownfish Amphiprion sebae, Sebae Clownfish Amphiprion tricinctus, Three-Band Clownfish Premnas biaculeatus, Maroon Clownfish Convict Blennies (Pholidichthyidae)  Pholidichthys leucotaenia, Convict Blenny, Engineer Goby Damselfishes (Pomacentridae) Abudefduf saxatilis, Sergeant Major Acanthochromis polyacanthus, Orange Line Chromis Amblyglyphidodon aureus, Golden Damselfish Amblyglyphidodon ternatensis, Ternate Damselfish Chromis nitida, Barrier Reef Chromis Chromis viridis, Blue Green Chromis Chrysiptera cyanea, Blue Devil Damselfish Chrysiptera hemicyanea, Azure Damselfish Chrysiptera parasema, Yellowtail Damselfish Chrysiptera rex, King Demoiselle Chrysiptera taupou, Fiji Blue Devil Dascyllus albisella, Whitespot Damselfish, Hawaiian Dascyllus Dascyllus aruanus, Three Stripe Damselfish Dascyllus trimaculatus, Three Spot Domino Damselfish Hypsypops rubicundus, Garibaldi Damselfish Microspathodon chrysurus, Jewel Damselfish Neoglyphidodon crossi, Cross’s Damselfish Neoglyphidodon melas, Bowtie Damselfish Neoglyphidodon nigroris, Black and Gold Chromis Neopomacentrus bankieri, Lyretail Damselfish Neopomacentrus cyanomos, Regal Damselfish Neopomacentrus filamentosus, Brown Damselfish Neopomacentrus nemurus, Yellow-Tipped Damselfish Neopomacentrus violascens, Violet Demoiselle Pomacentrus amboinensis, Ambon Damselfish Pomacentrus caeruleus, Caerulean Damselfish Pomacentrus coelestis, Neon Damselfish Pomacentrus nagasakiensis, Nagasaki Damselfish Pomacentrus pavo, Sapphire Damselfish Dartfishes (Ptereleotridae)  Parioglossus cf. dotui, Dotui Dartfish Dottybacks (Pseudochromidae)  Congrogadus subducens, Wolf Blenny Cypho purpurascens, Oblique Lined Dottyback Labracinus cyclophthalmus, Red Dottyback Labracinus lineatus, Lined Dottyback Manonichthys alleni, Allen’s Dottyback Manonichthys polynemus, Longfin Dottyback Manonichthys splendens, Splendid Dottyback Ogilbyina novaehollandiae, Australian Pseudochromis Oxycercichthys veliferus, Sailfin Dottyback Pictichromis diadema, Diadem Dottyback Pictichromis paccagnellae, Bicolor or Royal Dottyback Pictichromis porphyrea, Magenta Dottyback Pseudochromis aldabraensis, Neon Dottyback Pseudochromis bitaeniatus, Double Striped Dottyback Pseudochromis cyanotaenia, Blue Bar Dottyback Pseudochromis dilectus, Dilectus Dottyback* Pseudochromis elongatus, Red Head Elegant Dottyback Pseudochromis flavivertex, Sunrise Dottyback Pseudochromis fridmani, Orchid Dottyback Pseudochromis fuscus, Dusky or Yellow Dottyback Pseudochromis olivaceus, Olive Dottyback Pseudochromis sankeyi, Sankey’s or Striped Dottyback Pseudochromis springeri, Springer’s Dottyback Pseudochromis steenei, Flamehead or Steen’s Dottyback Pseudochromis tapeinosoma, Blackmargin Dottyback Pseudochromis tonozukai, Tono’s or Orange Peel Dottyback Dragonets (Callionymidae)  Callionymus bairdi, Lancer Dragonet Callionymus enneactis, Mosaic Dragonet Synchiropus ocellatus, Scooter Blenny Synchiropus picturatus, Spotted Mandarin Synchiropus splendidus, Green Mandarin Synchiropus stellatus, Red Scooter Blenny Drums (Sciaenidae)  Equetus lanceolatus, Jackknife Fish Equetus punctatus, Spotted Drum Pareques acuminatus, High Hat Pareques umbrosus, Cubbyu Filefishes (Monacanthidae)  Acreichthys tomentosus, Bristletail Filefish Oxymonacanthus longirostris, Orange Spotted Filefish Flagtails (Kuhliidae) Kuhlia mugil, Barred Flagtail* Frogfishes (Antennariidae)  Rhycherus filamentosus, Tasseled Frogfish Gobies (Gobiidae)  Amblygobius phalaena, Banded Sleeper Goby Coryphopterus personatus, Masked Goby Cryptocentroides gobiodes, Crested Oyster Goby* Cryptocentrus cinctus, Yellow Watchman Goby Cryptocentrus fasciatus, Y-Bar Watchman Goby Cryptocentrus leptocephalus, Pink-Speckled Shrimp Goby Cryptocentrus lutheri, Luther’s Prawn-Goby Elacatinus chancei, Shortstripe Goby Elacatinus evelynae, Golden Neon or Sharknose Goby Elacatinus figaro, Barber Goby Elacatinus genie, Cleaning Goby Elacatinus horsti, Yellowline Goby Elacatinus louisae, Spotlight Goby Elacatinus macrodon, Tiger Goby Elacatinus multifasciatus, Green Banded Goby Elacatinus oceanops, Neon Goby Elacatinus prochilos, Broadstripe Goby Elacatinus puncticulatus, Red Headed Goby Elacatinus randalli, Yellownose Goby Elacatinus xanthiprora, Golden Goby Gobiodon citrinus, Citron Clown Goby Gobiodon okinawae, Okinawan Goby Gobiosoma bosc, Naked Goby Koumansetta hectori, Hector’s Goby Koumansetta rainfordi, Rainford’s Goby Lythrypnus dalli, Catalina Goby Grammas (Grammatidae)  Gramma loreto, Royal Gramma Gramma melacara, Blackcap Basslet Lipogramma klayi, Bicolor Basslet Groupers (Serranidae)  Chromileptes altivelis, Panther or Humpback Grouper Epinephelus lanceolatus, Giant or Bumblebee Grouper Pectropomus leopardus, Coral Trout* Serranus subligarius, Belted Sandfish Grunts (Haemulidae)  Anisotremus virginicus, Porkfish Haemulon flavolineatum, French Grunt* Hamlets (Serranidae)  Hypoplectrus gemma, Blue Hamlet Hypoplectrus guttavarius, Shy Hamlet Hypoplectrus unicolor, Butter Hamlet Jacks (Carangidae)  Gnathanodon speciosus, Golden Trevally, Pilot Fish Selene vomer, Lookdown Jawfishes (Opistognathidae)  Opistognathus aurifrons, Pearly Jawfish Opistognathus macrognathus, Banded Jawfish Opistognathus punctatus, Finespotted Jawfish* Labrasomid Blennies (Labrisomidae) Paraclinus grandicomis, Horned Blenny Pipefishes (Syngnathidae)  Doryrhamphus excisus, Bluestripe Pipefish Doryrhamphus janssi, Janss’s Pipefish Dunckerocampus baldwini, Flame Pipefish, Red Striped Pipefish* Dunckerocampus dactyliophorus, Ringed Pipefish Dunckerocampus pessuliferus, Yellow Banded Pipefish Haliichthys taeniophorus, Ribboned Pipefish Syngnathus scovelli, Gulf Pipefish Puffers (Tetraodontidae)  Arthoron nigropunctatus, Dog-faced Pufferfish* Canthigaster rostrata, Sharpnose Puffer Lagocephalus spadiceus, Half-Smooth Golden Puffer Sphoeroides annulatus, Bullseye Pufferfish* Sphoeroides maculatus, Northern Puffer Rabbitfishes (Siganidae)  Siganus canaliculatus, White-Spotted Spinefoot Siganus guttatus, Oranged-spotted Rabbitfish* Siganus lineatus, Golden-Lined Spinefoot Siganus rivulatus, Marbled Spinefoot Siganus vermiculatus, Vermiculated Rabbitfish* Assessors (Plesiopidae)  Assessor flavissimus, Yellow Assessor Assessor macneilli, Blue Assessor Assessor randalli, Randal’s Assessor Calloplesiops altivelis, Marine Betta, Comet Trachinops taeniatus, Eastern Hulafish* Seadragons (Syngnathidae)  Phyllopteryx taeniolatus, Common Seadragon Seahorses (Syngnathidae)  Hippocampus abdominalis, Bigbelly Seashorse Hippocampus barbouri, Barbour’s Seahorse Hippocampus breviceps, Short-Head Seahorse Hippocampus capensis, Knysna Seahorse Hippocampus comes, Tiger Tail Seahorse Hippocampus erectus, Lined Seahorse Hippocampus fuscus, Sea Pony Hippocampus histrix, Thorny Seahorse Hippocampus ingens, Pacific Seahorse Hippocampus kelloggi, Great Seahorse Hippocampus kuda, Yellow or Common Seahorse Hippocampus procerus, High-Crown Seahorse Hippocampus reidi, Brazilian or Longsnout Seahorse Hippocampus trimaculatus, Longnose Seahorse Hippocampus whitei, White’s Seahorse Hippocampus zosterae, Dwarf Seahorse Bamboo Sharks (Hemiscylliidae)  Chiloscyllium hasseltii, Hasselt’s Bamboo Shark Chiloscyllium plagiosum, Whitespotted Bamboo Shark Chiloscyllium punctatum, Brownbanded Bamboo Shark Hemiscyllium hallistromi, Papuan Epaulette Shark Hemiscyllium ocellatum, Epaulette Shark Cat Sharks (Scyliorhinidae) Atelomycterus marmoratus, Coral Catshark* Bullhead Sharks (Heterodontidae)  Heterodontus francisci, Horn Shark Shrimpfishes (Centriscidae)  Aeoliscus strigatus, Razorfish, Shrimpfish Snappers (Lutjanidae)  Lutjanus sebae, Red Emperor Snapper Whiptail Rays (Dasyatidae)  Taeniura lymma, Bluespot Stingray Toadfishes (Batrachoididae)  Allenbatrachus grunniens, Grunting Toadfish Opsanus tau, Oyster Toadfish Triggerfishes (Balistidae)  Balistes vetula, Queen Triggerfish Xanthichthys mento, Crosshatch Triggerfish Triplefins (Tripterygiidae) Enneapterygius etheostomus, Snake Blenny Wrasses (Labridae)  Labroides dimidiatus, Cleaner Wrasse* Parajulis poecilepterus, Rainbow Wrasse Lachnolaimus maximus, Hogfish *New to the list for 2013.  May have been first captive-bred in 2013, or may be a species accomplishment occurring prior to 2013, only coming to our attention or confirmed in 2013. ** Name validity of Chaetodontoplus cephalareticulatus is under debate; some consider the Maze Angelfish it to be a variant of C. chrysocephalus (the Orangeface Angelfish) or even a naturally occurring hybrid of one or more Chaetodontoplus spp. Source: CORAL, Vol. 11, Number 1, January/February 2014

Introducing the Snowshine Seahorses

Introducing H. erectus var. Snowshine. As the head seahorse nerd and proprietor of, most of my articles shy away from my own operations. However, I’ve had a project underway I’ve been quietly working on for while that I’m excited to share: The Snowshines, a new variety of Hippocampus erectus. This new variety of seahorses, named Snowshines in honor of both the blustery state they were created (Wisconsin) a well as their unique coloration. Snowshines are still Lined Seahorses, H. erectus, but through selective breeding exhibit an unusual amount of pearlescent white markings, mixed with a base coloration that can manage a wide range of colors, all tinted with a glistening sheen. Light colored Snowshine H. erectus There have been a few varieties of seahorses offered by breeders based on color; but seahorses can change colors, making breeding for color a daunting task. Pintos, pieds, and other piebald varieties are probably the most well known, bur aquarists are frequently disappointed in the finicky color changes that can obscure the prize markings. The trouble with trying to breed for color with seahorses has always been that they are masters of camouflage and change to match their surrounding. But there is no set formula to encourage seahorses to display specific colors. There are certain tricks one can do, such as offer brightly colored holdfasts, but no one technique reliably guarantees color. And no one is quite sure of the extent that color is even an inheritable trait, as seahorses, like octopuses, use chromatophores (color-changing cells) to blend into their environment. Comparing Snowshines to wild-type H. erectus. Left shows a normal wild-type H. erectus at the bottom, and Snowshine var H. erectus above. Right image shows a wild-type H. erectus in the foreground, and Snowshine H. erectus behind it. I’ve been pondering this problem for a while, and decided to approach it from a different direction. Instead of attempting to breed for the base colors, which change, I’ve been selecting for the white coloration that occurs in the saddles and stars. Saddles are white patches that occur on the dorsal side of many seahorses, and stars are the small white dots that appear on many seahorses skin when displaying dark coloration (sometimes confused with ich by novice aquarists.) My observation is that these markings and color are more ‘sticky’ than the wide range of other colors H. erectus can produce. In working on this, I also noticed these markings seem have a certain amount of pearlescent shine. “Saddles” highlighted in yellow, “Stars” highlighted in blue on a wild-type H. erectus. Photo courtesy of Brian Gratwicke Snowshines are the results of using those observations to selectively breed a variety of seahorse that shows these traits amplified. Saddles merge to create large blocks of shiny white coloration. Many of them have masks much like certain clownfish varieties. And while the base color can change; black, green, yellow, and orange, brown are all color combinations I’ve seen underneath the white. My favorite, however, is when they display white on white – they not only show the white patches, but white coloration underneath, while displaying dark horizontal lines characteristic of H. erectus. Just like all seahorses, their colors are flexible, but the pearlescent “shine” stays. For example, many aquarists tend to shy away from darker colored seahorses. But with Snowshines, a black seahorse becomes a dramatic contrast of brilliant white and stark black. And while the exact coloration, shape and appearance does still change as they age as it appears with all seahorses, they keep the most dramatic coloration, the shine. Snowshine brother and sister from two different broods. Large male is 13 months and small female is 5 months in photo. The idea in selecting for these seahorses is partially based on the widespread interest in Hippocampus zebra, a rare deepwater seahorse that has only been found a handful of times. I’ve often wondered why someone doesn’t try to selectively breed H. erectus coloration to imitate H. zebra. H. erectus which has bold lines, but the distinctions between the lines and background colors of H. erectus isn’t very impressive. Eventually the idea brewed in my head long enough, and that someone became me. I didn’t end up with exactly what I set out to create, but I think I’ve created something much more interesting. A white-on-white Snowshine seahorse with bold horizontal stripes H. erectus is known for. Snowshines will be available for the first time through Diver’s Den. For those of you not familiar with Diver’s Den, it’s’s WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) shop that let’s you purchase the exact fish or invertebrate you see photographed. If you’re interested in a truly unique seahorse, keep your eyes glued to Diver’s Den. Snowshines compared to normal H. erectus Snowshine showing white and brown coloration Snowshine seahorse pair showing mottled coloration This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 at 8:29 am and is filed under Breeding. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

CORAL January/February 2014 Preview

CORAL Magazine Volume 11, Number 1 Launching into 2014 and its 11th year of publishing, CORAL Magazine will take a fresh look a Seahorses with cutting edge secrets to their successful aquarium husbandry, feeding, and breeding, a species guide to the best (and worst species for captive systems), and an updated report on their status in the wild. CORAL January/February 2014 Cover. Click to enlarge. The availability of big, vibrantly colored and fascinating seahorses from captive-bred stocks has never been better, and improved foods and husbandry guides bring successful seahorse keeping within the reach of many more marine hobbyists. Seahorses also graced the first issue of CORAL, Volume 1, Number 1, long out of print and the most highly sought-after back issue of the magazine. This issue is a response to thousands of requests to revisit the subject of seahorses with updated advice and all-new images. Other issue highlights coming: • Gnarly Nematocysts: Invertebrate zoologist Dr. Ron Shimek reveals the astonishing powers and speeds of the microscopic stinging cells found in corals, sea anemones, and other members of the Phylum Cnidaria. Essential reading for every reef aquarist. • The Macroalgae Reef: An eye-opening look at unconventional reef aquariums aquascaped with  beautiful macroalgae species, including a guide on how to balance a mix of corals and a choice of the best red and green marine plants. • Tamarin Wrasses: Once considered highly challenging to keep, the interesting and very appealing wrasses of the genus Anampses are becoming easier to maintain as experienced aquarists learn the tricks of acclimating and feeding them. Scott Michael offers an expert introduction this reef-safe group of labrids. • Donald Duck Shrimp: Profile of the highly unusual Long Snout, Plume or Donald Duck Shrimp, Leander plumosus, sure be added to many reefkeepers’ must-have lists of colorful invertebrates. • Playing With Fire: The First Captive-Breeding of the Flame Pipefish. Jim Welsh reports on his success with the beautiful Hawaiian endemic Dunkerocampus baldwinii, revealing many useful lessons for would-be breeders of other marine rarities. Deadline for materials to be included in this issue: December 10th.  The issue has an on-sale date of January 7, 2014. The print edition of CORAL in English is  distributed in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, France, India, the Netherlands, Malta, and elsewhere. The Digital Edition is read in more than 100 countries worldwide. To find a local or regional dealer who offers CORAL Magazine, visit our current Source Directory. CORAL is published bimonthly by Reef to Rainforest Media, LLC in Shelburne, Vermont, in partnership with Natur und Tier –Verlag GmbH and Matthias Schmidt Publishing, Muenster, Germany, Founding Editor: Daniel Knop English Edition Editor & Publisher: James M. Lawrence Cover Images Hippocampus reidi: Jorg Background The Banggai Cardinalfish will be published by Reef to Rainforest Media, LLC and exclusively distributed by Two Little Fishies. On sale date: August 27, 2013.

iSeahorse Launches to Track Seahorse Sightings

Background Photo by Anthony Pearson. Are you a diver? Or perhaps just near the ocean and have the occasional sighting of seahorses in the wild? Project Seahorse launches to track seahorses spotted around the globe. And they have an iphone app for those world travelers on the go. This is citizen science at it’s best, and a great opportunity to help understand the biology of seahorses along with population information that can be used in confirmation efforts. Heather Koldewey writes; Dear friends and colleagues, We have some exciting news: Today marks the launch of iSeahorse, a brand-new citizen science initiative that allows anyone, anywhere in the world to contribute to seahorse science and conservation with just a few clicks of a mouse or taps on a smartphone. A collaboration among University of British Columbia, Zoological Society of London, John G. Shedd Aquarium, and partners all over the world, iSeahorse allows you to share your seahorse observation anytime you spot one of these mysterious and threatened animals in the wild. Scientists from Project Seahorse and the iSeahorse network will use your vital information to better understand seahorse behaviour, species ranges, and the threats seahorses face. We will use this knowledge to improve seahorse conservation across the globe. Whether you’re a diver, a fisher, a scientist, a seahorse enthusiast, or just on a beach holiday, we want to hear from you! Sharing your seahorse observations is fast and easy. Visit or download the iSeahorse app for iPhone to get started. On the iSeahorse website, you can view interactive seahorse maps and species profiles, contribute species identifications, learn about conservation threats, and advocate for increased conservation measures in your ocean neighbourhood. For more information, visit or email us at! The Project Seahorse Team So go to the website, download the app, and help make science happen! This entry was posted on Saturday, October 19th, 2013 at 12:59 am and is filed under Diving. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
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