Knysna Sea Horse

By Corrina Lewis

Knysna sea horse:Hippocampus capensis

The Knysna seahorse looking like a tiny creature of mythology is on route to extinction due to residential development, floods and human exploitation. It is found in tidal rivers, lagoons and estuaries from Mossel Bay, Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna as far as Plettenberg Bay and Natures Valley in the Garden Route.

The endangered Knysna seahorse has an uncannily horse-like head and heraldic posture looking like a mythology creature that was dreamt up by an ancient storyteller. The Knysna seahorse is quite real and a true fish with gills and a mouth which, although more of a tubular snout, basically like a fishes mouth. Its diet is based on marine organisms that it sucks in.

The sea horse is usually found hiding erect among plant life of tidal reaches using its prehensile tail as an anchor and its head as a hook to pull itself up and around clusters of seaweed, rarely swimming about freely due to it been timid and vulnerable to predators and very seldom growing over 12cm long.

The seahorses eyes resemble those of a chameleon working independently with each other resulting in all round vision and just like chameleons they can change color to blend with their surroundings.

Its oddest feature is the pouch on the abdomen of the male into which the female places her eggs. After this she takes no more part in the breeding process. Around 60 eggs are then fertilized and developed in the pouch, hatching in 60 days, and the young are released by the father in a series of exhausting contractions that appear to be similar to birth pains.

The Knysna seahorse is found from Mossel Bay to the Keurbooms River in Plettenberg Bay usually hiding close to the banks in seaweed and easy pray for collectors and skin divers, and on occasions has been seen while on the Keurbooms River Ferries.