Written By Tyler Van Fleet.

Posted on May 3rd, 2016.

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Dads do a lot all year long. This Father’s Day, we’re paying homage to one particularly incredible downstream daddy: the lined seahorse.

Dads do a lot all year long. This Father’s Day, we’re paying homage to one particularly incredible downstream daddy: the lined seahorse.

Follow the flow of almost any stream in the eastern US, and you’ll eventually wind up in brackish waters like the Chesapeake Bay, Gulf of Mexico, or Hudson River. These waters are home to the lined seahorse, a fish that can live for 1 to 4 years and grow up to 8 inches long.

seahorse

 This lined seahorse (Hippocampus erectus) was photographed in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo credit: SEFSC Pascagoula Laboratory; Collection of Brandi Noble, NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC, Flickr

What makes lined seahorses (and other seahorses) so unusual in the natural world is the way they reproduce. It’s the male seahorse that carries the developing embryos in a belly pouch for 3 weeks before he gives birth to hundreds of babies. Need some proof? Check out this video of a male seahorse giving birth in an aquarium:

 

Even though they’re fish, lined seahorses are poor swimmers. In fact, it would take a full minute for one to swim from your elbow to your fingertips! To deal with this limitation, lined seahorses use their coiled tails to hold on to an underwater plant called eel grass for stability. By changing color to blend into their surroundings, the seahorses can launch sneak attacks on unsuspecting prey, like small shrimp, which they suck up through their long snouts.

What does all this have to do with your woods miles and miles from the ocean? Believe it or not, your land care choices impact the survival of these caring fathers. Fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and loose soil can wash off your land and driveway and end up in the bays where the seahorses live. Once there, these pollutants cause eel grass and other aquatic plants to die. No eel grass means nowhere for the lined seahorse to hunt, and nowhere to hunt means no lined seahorses.

And the lined seahorse is in trouble. Even though it can be found in bays along the Atlantic coast from Canada to South America, it’s considered a threatened species because of pollution. Lined seahorse numbers have dropped 30% in the past 10 years alone.

So this Father’s Day, spare a moment and think about the lined seahorse. Then discover ways you can protect water on your property both for your own benefit and for the sake of these dedicated dads.


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