Living Coasts, the all-weather attraction located on Torquay seafront in South Devon, is now home to native seahorses.
These beautiful, serene and exotic creatures, also known by the Latin hippocampus – meaning “horse caterpillar” – live in the seagrass meadows just offshore in the Bay. Seahorses use their long, thin snouts to probe into nooks and crannies for food, sucking it up like vacuum cleaners. Choosing to mate for life, unusually it is the male seahorse that will go through pregnancy and labour.
However, the seagrass the seahorses need is threatened by coastal development, irresponsible anchoring, dredging and other activities that disturb the seabed. The seagrass beds are also at risk from pollution and by increased amounts of sediment in the water, which block sunlight and prevent growth. If the seagrass beds disappear, the seahorses will disappear.
Curator of Living Coasts Clare Rugg said: “We did have native seahorses here a few years ago, so it’s nice to welcome them back. We now have two males and two females and we hope to maximize the chances of them breeding by providing the right conditions for them – good water quality, plenty of fresh food and seagrass which they cling to with their tails, which are prehensile, like those of various monkeys.
“There are two species of seahorse found in UK waters – the short snouted, which we have at Living Coasts, and the spiny or the long snouted seahorse, which was seen in the Bay during the seagrass surveys last year.”
Staff at Living Coasts are currently working behind the scenes on a project to propagate seagrass and find ways of growing it on a large-enough scale to make planting areas of suitable seabed possible.
For more information go to www.livingcoasts.org.uk or ring 0844 474 3366.