Seahorses, Seadragons and more at Seahorse World in Tasmania, Australia
Seahorses hold an amazing fascination for me. They look so fragile but are very strong. They can be between 1.5cm and 35cm (0.5in and 14in) long. Amazingly, they are among the only animal species in which the male bears the unborn young. Seahorses prefer to swim in pairs with their tails linked together.
Seahorse World is located at Beauty Point in the Tamar Valley, just 45 minutes from either Devonport or Launceston in the north-east of Tasmania. It is located on a wharf right at the sea edge. The facility is a working seahorse farm that offers tours through their aquariums. You can even hold a seahorse in your hand at the end of the tour if you wish.
The Cave of the Seahorse
Created to look like a rock cave, our guide lead us into the first of three designated areas on the tour. In the walls were various glassed windows through which I could view the delightful creatures. The different colours and sizes of seahorses amazed me. With an ability to rapidly change colours, they can be red, orange, black, yellow or silver, but never blue or green.
Our guide informed us that seahorses are indeed fish. They belong to the genus Hippocampus. A cut away model showed us the different internal organs.
Seahorses have no teeth and no stomach. Food passes through their digestive systems so quickly, they must eat almost constantly to stay alive. Anchoring themselves to seaweeds and corals using their tails, they suck in plankton and small crustaceans that drift by with their long snouts.
By having the males pregnant, it frees up the females to make more eggs and they can quickly reproduce. The female can release up to 50 eggs into a pouch on the male's abdomen. The male then carries the eggs in this pouch. He can release up to 1,500 fully formed baby seahorses upon hatching.
The Seahorse Farm
I was impressed by the cave, and even more impressed by the sheer number of creatures in the farm. In various tanks there were over 20,000 seahorses. Some tanks held newly hatched fry (the term for a baby seahorse).
Other tanks held more mature seahorses. As our guide moved to the tank to feed them, the seahorses all started to swim towards where he was standing. They know where he is by his movement. Can you imagine the photo below as a jigsaw puzzle?
The Southern Ocean Aquarium room
Housed here are seadragons. They belong to the same Sygnathidae family as seahorses. They are found in the sea from southern Western Australia to northern New South Wales, and are common in Tasmanian waters between zero and 50 metres. Seadragons can grow up to 45cm (18in) in length.
The Spotted Handfish is one of the world's rarest fish and only found in the Derwent estuary in Hobart, Tasmania. Seahorse World has established a breeding program. If successful, the offspring will be introduced back into their natural enviroment.
This fish walks on fins that resemble hands. The handfish has no fins so spends the majority of its life on the seabottom eating amphipods, shrimp and worms.
I love learning new ideas and facts and was suprised that all clown fish are born male. In a process known as sequential hermaphrodism, when a female of a group dies, the dominant male will turn female. They live in regimented schools with only one female and the rest male. Only the largest male will mate with the female.
There is a variety of other fish and sea creatures in the aquarium to watch and learn about. The tour took around 45 minutes and catered to all ages. We had children from 4 years to older adults on our tour and the guide was able to keep all of us entertained and enthralled.
I was delighted by the whole experience and the opportunity to see these gorgeous creatures up close. A gift shop at the end of the tour has sea related gifts to purchase. You can also purchase a mounted petrified seahorse that has passed away by natural means.
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