Monday, 8 September 2008
Hippocampus tales: NIO scientists breed Indian Seahorse in captivity
September 8, 2008
By Syed Akbar
In a major ecological exercise a team of scientists at the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, has successfully produced seahorses in captivity. The success of NIO's captive breeding of this endangered marine species will help in populating Indian and other oceans with seahorses or Hippocampus. A notable feature of seahorses is that the male of the species gives birth to young ones.
The NIO researchers have selected Indian Seahorse, Hippocampus kuda, for the experiment since its population has been dwindling. Hippocampus kuda or Yellow Seahorse belongs to the fascinating group of fishes of the genus Hippocampus. It is also called Spotted Seahorse.
Senior NIO scientist Dr Rayadurga Ananta Sreepada told this correspondent that they had collected juvenile seahorses from the wild. The juvenile animals were grown to maturity and allowed to form pair bonding, mate, complete gestation and spawning under captive conditions through manipulation of feed and environmental conditions. The seahorse project is funded by the Department of Biotechnology.
"Two male seahorses delivered 320 juveniles. Both the daddies and the babies are being taken care at the Aquaculture Laboratory - the Fraternity Home. The juvenile
seahorses are presently passing through a very critical of their survival since they shift from pelagic phase to the settlement phase. This 15 days period will end on September 13," he said.
Seahorses are remarkable with their unusual body shape and their biology, with males incubating the fertilised eggs in a brood pouch. They belong to the family,
Syngnathidae. They inhabit many ecologically sensitive aquatic habitats, including coral reefs, sea grasses, mangroves and estuaries, with most species in the Indo-Pacific and western Atlantic region.
"Extraordinary myths surround them. Ironically, it is their very popularity that places them in danger, as they are sought in large numbers for use in traditional
medicine, aquarium fish and curios (souvenirs). It has been conservatively estimated that at least 20 million seahorses (56 million tonnes) are being caught annually for the traditional medicine market," Dr Sreepada said.
More than one million live sea horses are caught for aquarium trade, mostly destined for sale in North America. India was contributing to about 30 per cent of global
seahorse trade until 2001 and now all species of seahorses have been brought under the schedule I of the Wild Life Act, 1972 to prohibit exploitation.
The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species has placed all species of seahorses under Appendix II which means that captive breeding could be undertaken
for stock enhancement programme and aquaculture purposes.
"We are confident that standardisation of hatchery rearing and mass culture of seahorses will be helpful in their conservation, of reproduction meeting ever-increasing demand in traditional medicine and marine aquarium trade. In addition, development of such technology will provide an alternative livelihood or supplementary income to the fisher folk and self-help groups in the coastal areas of the country," he said.
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