Hippos… In The Bay?

Hippos… In The Bay?

Most people who live in and around the famed Chesapeake Bay are quite surprised to find out that we have a healthy population of  Atlantic Sea Horses (Hippocampus Erectus). Also known as the Lined Seahorse, they are hanging around all the docks and crab pots in the Bay proper and in the creeks and tributaries that are salty enough to sustain them.

Although not as common as their kissing cousins, the Northern and the Dusky Pipefish, I manage to catch a dozen or so each year.

Most of us know seahorses from our childhood watching TV in the 70’s.

Aquaman would mount his sturdy (and gigantic!) mount, Storm, while his sidekick, Aqualad (they didn’t use much imagination in the 70’s when it came to naming cartoons) jumped on his faithful charge, Imp. Off they would ride, saving the world’s ocean from evil. Others remember them from their vacations “Downy Ocean”. Whether it was Jersey, Delaware or in Ocean City, Maryland, you could find dried renditions of the live ones, being sold in every souvenir shop on the boardwalk.

Over the last few years, I have caught more and more of these odd little fish with each passing summer. I find the majority of them with their tails firmly grasping the wire of the crab pots that I am tending. They hang near docks, in shallow water, where there’s plenty of copepods to eat.

I have kept them alive for months in small aquariums.

Watching the pregnant males give birth has always fascinated me. They’re not many examples in the animal world where the male incubates the eggs and gives birth. Hundreds of miniature Storms and Imps being thrust forward into the unknown. I wonder if they will go forth, saving the Bay from the evils that we impose upon it…….?

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