Thursday, September 09, 2010

Oily doom for tiny seahorse?

The world's smallest seahorse, the cute little 1 inch dwarf seahorse, is at risk of extinction thanks to BP's Gulf of Mexico oily disaster and subsequent cleanup.

So says Project Seahorse, the Zoological Society of London's conservation branch.

According to Project Seahorse, the dwarf sea horse is particularly vulnerable due to its small size, limited habitat, inability to migrate great distances, and low birth rate. The fish also mate for life, so the loss of even one breeding parent is doubly dangerous to the species' long-term reproductive health. The Deepwater oil spill occurred during the sea horses' primary breeding time.

Another problem is that the dwarf sea horse, unlike its cousin sea horse species, often lives close to the ocean surface in floating mats of sea grass. Not only did spilled oil accumulate in these mats, BP burned many of them to prevent them from carrying oil onto the shore. According to Project Seahorse's press release, "The burning of the mats has killed many marine animals while depriving others of their habitat and exposing them to further toxicity. Sea grass is vital to the long-term health of coastal ecosystems, sheltering marine animals, acting as fish nurseries, improving water quality and preventing erosion."

Meanwhile, Project Seahorse experts also express fear that the dispersants used to treat the oil spill will add further toxicity to the dwarf sea horse's habitat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hippocampus zosterae is not the smallest seahorse species, both H. bargibanti and H. denise are smaller. It is, however, the smallest Atlantic/Caribbean species.