South West What's On

Longleat Welcomes Best of British Seahorses

A new marine feature showcasing the two different types of seahorse found in British waters has been unveiled at Longleat.

The new display is home to two colonies of captive bred spiny and short snouted seahorses; both of which are resident in the seas around the UK.

All the new arrivals were bred at a specialist facility in Portugal as part of a programme which helps conserve seahorse numbers in the wild.

As its name suggests the spiny seahorse is covered in spine-like appendages along its head and back. The short-snouted seahorse and can be distinguished by a shorter snout and the lack of elongated protuberances.

Marine experts now believe both species are permanent residents in UK waters and the numbers of both long and short-snouted seahorses off the south coast and around the Channel Islands may be on the increase.

Throughout the world seahorse numbers are in sharp decline due to variety of causes including pollution, loss of habitat and over-fishing.

Longleat’s Christopher Burr said: “Seahorses have proved an enduring fascination since Classical times and remain just as popular today. Our new column-shaped display allows people to get up close to these amazing fish for the very first time here.

“We’re hoping some of the new arrivals may be pregnant and we will soon be looking after a new generation of these graceful creatures,”
s/he added.

The seahorse display is the latest addition to the Wiltshire attraction’s Penguin Island which also features a colony of Humboldt penguins and an open-topped sandy seabed tank which is home to a variety of rays and flatfish species.

The seahorse is unique in the animal kingdom in that it is the male rather than the female which carries the babies and gives birth to them via a special brood pouch on their stomach.

The female seahorse lays her eggs in the male’s pouch. He then fertilises them and incubates them until they’re ready to emerge into the great outdoors.

In the wild virtually all of the approximate 47 species of seahorse are now under threat from a variety of sources.

These include loss of habitat, pollution, the souvenir trade and traditional Far East medicine - believed to account for the deaths of more than 20 million seahorses annually.