Magic of seahorses

Photograph: Steve Trewhella
Photograph: Steve Trewhella

The Guardian has an extract from an amazing new book about seahorses – Poseidon’s Steed by Helen Scales.  It’s filled with beautiful, vivid descriptions:

Should we presume these odd-looking creatures were designed by a mischievous god who had some time on her hands? Rummaging through a box labelled “spare parts”, she finds a horse’s head and, feeling a desire for experimentation, places it on top of the pouched torso of a kangaroo.

This playful god adds a pair of swivelling chameleon eyes and the prehensile tail of a tree-dwelling monkey for embellishment – then stands back to admire her work. Not bad, but how about a suit of magical colour-changing armour, and a crown shaped as intricately and uniquely as a human fingerprint? Shrink it all down to the size of a chess piece and the new creature is complete.

And fascinating facts:

The couple halt in the open water column and hold their bodies close, forming a heart shape with their touching snouts and bellies. Their first attempt isn’t quite right, so they break apart and try again several times until their position is perfected, the female just above the male. Then an extraordinary thing happens. A short hollow tube emerges from the female, which she pushes into an opening in her partner’s belly. The couple raise their heads and arch their backs as the female shoots an egg-laden liquid into the male.

Most people are unaware that seahorses live in non-tropical waters and are found off Britain’s shores (the Spiny Seahorse in the photograph is found in Studland Bay, Dorset), let alone that the males become pregnant, which makes them unique in the world of living things.  Read more

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