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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 October 2005, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Zoo breeds tiny rare seahorses
Seahorses reared at the Anglesey Sea Zoo are now three months old.

A Welsh zoo has successfully bred hundreds of tiny rare seahorses.

Visitors to Anglesey Sea Zoo can see some of the short-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus) for the first time on Saturday.

The babies - or fry - were just 5-7mm (0.19 - 0.27in) long when they were born three months ago.

Three of the original 300 born will be on display at the zoo, which is part of a worldwide project to protect endangered seahorses.

The short-snouted seahorse is found in the Mediterranean and in UK waters. They live around eelgrass beds and because they do not move much they are often missed by divers.

Staff at the zoo are delighted the creatures are now around 35mm (1.37in) long, and so large enough to make their first public appearance.

Short-snouted seahorse (hippocampus hippocampus)
Putting the fry in a different tank has helped their nurturing

Curator Karen Tuson said they could be told apart from one another because they had slightly different markings.

The seahorses had proved difficult to rear in the past, but the team now belive they have eliminated problems which had caused earlier hatchlings to die.

The zoo has had success with other species of seahorse, but short-snouts are particularly small.

"They are usually born overnight.," Ms Tuson said. "We come in the morning and they are there in the tank.

"In the tank we were keeping them in before, we were finding dead space where the water and food wasn't moving. The seahorses were getting trapped."

'Dance together'

The new, smaller, tanks have an air tube down the side, which keeps the water moving and breaks up the surface tension.

This means the fry are not stuck at the surface, unable to descend.

The zoo brought in five adults - four males and one female - from Ireland earlier this year. The female has mated with the same male on each occasion and staff at the site have watched the mating ritual.

Ms Tuson said: "They do a wonderful dance together. They are very active. It is usually in the mornings.

Chinese medicine

"What they will do is entwine their tails and rise up and down in the tank. Sometimes the male will go over to the female and he'll basically almost drag her around the tank.

"He has to persevere, and she has to be ready and have eggs that are viable which she will give him."

The zoo hopes to exchange some of its growing population with fellow institutions involved in protecting seahorse populations.

At least 20 million seahorses are taken from the sea each year to meet the demands of Chinese medicine, where they are highly prized as treatment for asthma, lethargy and impotence.

Next month the zoo is hosting a national aquarium workshop, with more than 100 delegates from public aquaria nationwide.




SEE ALSO:
Seahorses get zoo's backing
02 Aug 03 |  North West Wales
Tiny seahorse identified
12 May 03 |  Science/Nature
Seahorses in peril
08 Feb 00 |  Science/Nature
Tourism plan for 'Treasure Island'
30 Jun 03 |  North West Wales


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