For the first time ever, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is displaying shortsnout seahorses (Hippocampus breviceps). Seventeen of these tiny seahorses (up to three inches) were added to the Secret Lives of Seahorses special exhibition in late August. You can find them in the “Giving Birth” section of the exhibit in the free-standing, round display.
The Aquarium acquired shortsnouts when the exhibit opened in early 2009, but they are only now being shown, according to Jonelle Verdugo, associate curator of fish and invertebrates. Those on display include those original shortsnouts, plus some that were born behind the scenes. And there may be more to come: three dozen additional shortsnouts were born behind the scenes in mid-September.
A Shout Out to Shortsnouts
The Aquarium kept and reared shortsnouts behind the scenes from 2004 until 2007 to learn more about the species in preparation for the Secret Lives of Seahorses, but these animals were never shown to the public. “If I had to pick a favorite seahorse, it would be this one,” says Jonelle. “I always looked forward to having them on display.”
Shortsnouts are dark colored with purplish browns, reds and yellows. They often grow “cirri”—small, hornlike appendages that serve as camouflage—around the eyes, neck and abdomen areas. Mature males fill a prominent “brood pouch” when trying to attract females, and this can often be seen on exhibit. When in motion, a fanlike dorsal fin moves in a blur, propelling the seahorse forward, and other fins near the ears provide steering.
Native to the waters of Australia, shortsnouts are found in large groups, in sea grass beds and among algae-covered rocky reefs. Unfortunately, these nearshore habitats face a range of threats, from development to pollution. (Learn more about seahorse conservation.)“I’m really excited to get to display these seahorses after so many years,” says Jonelle. “They’re so small, at first they can be hard to find. But the more you look, the more you see.”