Marine biologists from conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) have reported a surge in seahorse sightings in the River Thames.
In the past two months six seahorses have been spotted, compared with just one or two sightings in the previous year.
The most recent sighting of a short-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus) was recorded by an ecological survey team working at Greenwich. It is not yet known what might have caused this recent surge in sightings.
Commenting on the team’s latest discovery, Anna Cucknell – Estuaries & Wetlands Conservation Manager for ZSL – said: “We’re really excited to be finding more and more evidence suggesting seahorses are resident in the Thames. The limited research work to date suggests that two species in particular now call London’s estuary home: the short-snouted seahorse and the spiny seahorse (Hippocampus guttulatus).
“Both tend to prefer shallow coastal waters and estuaries, so we shouldn’t be too shocked to find them here. But the fact both species typically have small home ranges and don’t tend to travel far gives reason to believe that the seahorses we’ve found recently are permanent residents rather than occasional visitors.
The latest seahorse sightings show just how biodiverse and important the Thames is for a number of species: from tiny invertebrates like shrimp and insect larvae; to over 125 species of fish, including the Critically Endangered European eel, and larger predators like the harbour seal and grey seal.
Members of the public can support research efforts by reporting their own sightings via iSeahorse.org and The Seahorse Trust’s National Seahorse Database, as well as signing-up to volunteer as citizen scientists with ZSL’s Thames conservation team.
Visitors to ZSL London Zoo’s historic Aquarium can see seahorses and learn more about ZSL’s work to conserve these amazing creatures worldwide, ZSL is also a leading partner in the collaborative #OneLess campaign, designed to reduce the amount of wasteful and polluting single-use plastic water bottles entering the ocean from the Thames – ultimately benefitting all of the river’s wildlife, including seahorses.
For more information on visiting ZSL London Zoo go to www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo