Seahorses & Seadragons

Amongst Dalton Koss HQ’s favourite animals and plants are the enigmatic seahorses and seadragons.

Are they real? Do they really exist?”, DKHQ is often asked.

 Yes, they are real and live in both tropical and cooler oceans across the globe.

Regarded by most as resembling half horse half fish, these gentle oceanic creatures spend their time slowly cruising amongst seagrass meadows, seaweed gardens and coral looking for small shrimp to eat.

Both seahorses and seadragons belong to the bony fish family, Syngnathidae, which also includes pipefish and pipehorses (a DKHQ marine fact for another day) .

Seahorses tend to have an upright vertical position while stationary or moving,  while seadragons tend to have a horizontal stationary and moving position. Although seahorses and seadragons look different, they are closely related.

There are some AMAZING facts about seahorses and seadragons.

FACT 1: The seahorse and the seadragon are the only animals in the world where the male gives birth to the babies. Yes, you read correctly! The only animals in the world where the male gives birth. Female seahorses deposit their eggs into the male seahorse pouch where they are then fertilised. The male seahorse will carry the growing babies in the pouch until they are born, which is why some male seahorses look like they have a very big belly. This reproduction approach is very similar for seadragons, however,  the male seadragon will carry the babies in pouches that are attached to their tail rather than in their belly.

FACT 2: Seadragons can only be found in the cooler waters across southern Australia and no where else in the world. The Weedy seadragon is Victoria’s marine state emblem, while the Leafy seadragon is South Australia’s marine state emblem.

FACT 3: If you have an opportunity to dive amongst the tropical reefs of South East Asia, keep your eye out for the pygmy seahorse. No bigger than an average sized thumb, pygmy seahorses will only live on specific types of coral.

A pygmy seahorse attached to coral in the beautiful reefs of Malaysia. Image by Dr Elizabeth Strain.
Spot the pygmy seahorse attached to coral located in the beautiful reefs of Malaysia. Image by Dr Elizabeth Strain.

The next time you are snorkelling or diving amongst seaweed gardens, seagrass meadows or coral reefs, keep your eyes open for a beautiful seahorse or seadragon.

OUR GRASSY OCEAN MEADOWS

“Grass that grows in seawater?”, Dalton Koss HQ is often asked. Yes, grass that can grow in and withstand seawater. But how?

Seagrass is similar to land-based grass, having leaves, veins and roots. The leaves grow from the base of the leave and reproduce with flowers and seeds. Many individual seagrass plants found growing together is termed a seagrass bed or seagrass meadow. Seagrass meadows can be found across the globe, usually in coastal areas close to shore where sunlight can penetrate the water column. Like all plants, seagrass needs sunlight to grow.

The different parts of the seagrass, Amphibolis antarctica, or commonly known as the sea nymph.
The different parts of the seagrass, Amphibolis antarctica, or commonly known as the sea nymph.

Although seagrass meadows may not look like much to the casual observer, they play an incredibly important role in supporting not only the health of our coasts and oceans, but also to humans. There are so many incredible facts about seagrass that DKHQ would like to share with you.

Did you know that seagrass meadows are nurseries for baby sea animals, providing shelter and protection from bigger animals and food to help them grow? Most of the fish we buy to eat would have spent some of their younger years living and growing in seagrass meadows before swimming to the oceans as adults.

An eleven arm seastar (Coscinasterias muricate) and small mussels (Electroma georgiana) living in swan grass (Zoestera muelleri).
An eleven arm seastar (Coscinasterias muricate) and small mussels (Electroma georgiana) living in swan grass (Zoestera muelleri).

Due to the amazing root network of seagrass, they are able trap and stabilise soft sediments, sand and other very small items floating in seawater. This means seagrass plays an important role in protecting our shorelines from erosion and helps improves seawater clarity.

In areas of seagrass meadows there are less toxic algal blooms. Seagrass is amazing at absorbing a whole lot of different nutrients, that often contribute to algal blooms, and using it as food to grow.

The seagrass plant is like a small cosmos to itself. It provides a solid surface for other small seaweeds, sponges and animals to grow.

A meadow of Southern strapped (Posidonia australis) in Corner Inlet Marine National Park, Victoria.
A meadow of Southern strapped (Posidonia australis) in Corner Inlet Marine National Park, Victoria.

Worried about high carbon levels in the atmosphere? Seagrass is able to absorb and store large quantities of carbon in their leaves and roots. Let’s protect seagrass so it can be a wonderful and natural way to address our high carbon lifestyles.

If you ever have an opportunity to snorkel in a grassy ocean meadow, do not pass it up! You might just be surprised with what you find.

A beautiful and vibrant red sponge growing in the Southern strapweed.
A beautiful and vibrant red sponge growing amongst the Southern strapweed.