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A rare species of British seahorse is recovering at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth after being found stranded on mudflats.
The spiny seahorse was discovered near Weymouth by Justin Roulland the owner of the Lock, Stock and Tackle fishing shop in Portsmouth while he was out digging for ragworm.
The tiny fish had become stranded on the mudflats above the waterline after a particularly high tide and was at risk of being attacked by seagulls.
On discovering the seahorse Justin contacted staff at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth.
Blue Reef’s Robbie Robinson said: “The little fellow is recovering well and appears to be in relatively good condition. It’s difficult to be certain how he came to be stranded in the mud although it’s quite possible that he could have been picked up by a bird in the shallows and accidentally dropped. Justin said there had been a very high tide and when he found him he was barely alive. Apparently he popped him in a bucket of seawater and then nursed him overnight before bringing him in to us. As he was stranded above the waterline and at risk from the seagulls it was definitely the right thing to do,”
Blue Reef is involved in a nationwide captive seahorse breeding programme and – once fully recovered – it is hoped he will be transferred to Portsmouth’s sister aquarium in Newquay to join a pair of female spiny seahorses.
Although extremely rare, there are actually believed to be two separate species of seahorse found in British waters – the short snouted and the spiny.
Spiny seahorses are found in shallow muddy waters, in estuaries or inshore amongst seaweed and seagrasses along the south coast with further populations recorded in the Channel Islands and Ireland.
The seahorse is unique in the animal kingdom in that it is the male rather than the female which carries the babies and gives birth to them via a special brood pouch on their stomach.
The female seahorse lays her eggs in the male’s pouch. He then fertilises them and incubates them until they’re ready to emerge into the great outdoors.
In the wild virtually all of the approximate 34 species of seahorse are now under threat from a variety of sources. These include loss of habitat, pollution, the souvenir trade and traditional Far East medicine - believed to account for the deaths of more than 20 million seahorses annually.