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Dive Dry with Dr. Bill

#677: See... A Sea Horse!

Those of you ancient geezers who can still read this fine print may remember the Ed Sullivan Show which he started off with "We have a REALLY BIG show." Of course as a youngster I was certain he said a really big SHOE and thought maybe he once played professional basketball. Well, this week I've got a REALLY BIG column for you!

Back on Valentine's Day while I was moping about not having a sweetie (but happy to save big bucks by not buying flowers, candy and a fancy dinner), CDS instructor Ruth Harris was out in the dive park. Her eagle eyes have discovered a number of critters including a lonely white abalone. On this dive she returned saying she had seen a sea horse!

Sea horses are extremely rare in Catalina waters. However, due to our unusually warm water this is the third sighting I've heard of in the last year. Usually I have to travel to exotic destinations to film them. Last week all I needed to do was kick out to the location Ruth described and... voila... there it was.

The Pacific sea horse (Hippocampus ingens) is known from Peru to the southernmost part of the US West Coast. If I could conjure up the big bucks, I could have made a trip down to Sandy Eggo where they have been found under the Coronado Bridge, in Mission Bay and even in La Jolla Cove. So it's not a "giant leap for seahorse kind" to make it up to Catalina.

The interesting thing about this one is that it was not a little baby that might have drifted up here in the currents, unless it was a while ago. It was about 4" in length and they can reach a foot, making them one of the largest species. Males are usually larger than females. Body color can vary depending on the background habitat. They may be brown, gold, maroon, white or a combination of colors.

Seahorses have fairly small, tubular shaped mouths. Food is swallowed whole so it must be small to pass into the body. Munchables include plankton, crustaceans and other small organisms.

Mating involves complex rituals, far more involved than what can be observed at the Marlin or Chi Clubs about 2:00 am. The female deposits up to hundreds of her eggs into a pouch on the male's belly. Yep, another fish species in which the female has wisely relinquished child rearing to her mate. Here the eggs will develop for several weeks before hatching as tiny miniatures of the adults (mini mes?).

I actually hesitated a bit before deciding to write this column. While I try to respect different cultures and belief systems, I think the PC crowd has gone way too far when they descended on the marine world. Anyone who can't tell that a starfish (er, sea star) or a jellyfish (er, sea jelly) is not a fish must have flunked freshman biology. I just hope they don't try to change the name of the seahorse in their zeal!

© 2016 Dr. Bill Bushing. Watch the "Dive Dry with Dr. Bill" underwater videos on Catalina Cable TV channel 29, 10:00 AM weekdays and on Charter Communications Cable channel 33 at 7:30 PM on Tuesdays in the Riverside/Norco area. You can also watch these episodes in iPod format on YouTube through my channel there (drbillbushing). Please help me climb out of self-imposed poverty... buy my DVD's (see this link). Yes, take Dr. Bill home with you... we'll both be glad you did!

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Female seahorse filmed in the Casino Point Dive Park, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California.

This document maintained by Dr. Bill Bushing.
Material and images © 2015 Star Thrower Educational Multimedia