Seahorse’s Atlantic crossing

From the BBC today:

Seahorse ‘hitchhikes’ Atlantic

By Jody Bourton
Earth News reporter

Navigating the world’s oceans can be a difficult task for anyone.

For a tiny seahorse with only small fins and a tail for locomotion it seems an impossible task.

However, a seahorse that lives on the western coast of the Atlantic has been found in the Azores almost 5000km away from its possible home.

Researchers suggest the seahorse may have completed the epic journey using its prehensile tail to hitch a ride on a raft of floating sea grass.

An international team of researchers from the UK and the Azores publish their discovery in the Journal of Fish Biology.

Lost at sea

The seahorse was found by a fisherman on the isolated Azores archipelago in the eastern Atlantic.

Two species of seahorse Hippocampus guttulatus and Hippocampus hippocampus are native to Europe and the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal.

The researchers compared the morphology and DNA of the seahorse with the two native species and found it was a lined seahorse Hippocampus erectus usually found along the Atlantic coast and Caribbean sea coasts of North, Central and South America. …

The researchers say that this is the first record of the species in the eastern Atlantic.

Seahorses are cryptic animals and blend into their habitat living among seaweed in shallow water along coastlines.

So exactly how it arrived on the other side of the Atlantic in the Azores posed a key question for the researchers.

Life raft

They suggest the seahorse may have been released by someone who kept the seahorse in an aquarium.

Another possibility is the fish may have been transported to the Azores in the ballast water of a ship.

However, the most likely explanation the researchers believe, is the seahorse hitched a ride across the ocean on a floating raft.

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