A STUDY of seahorses has found the Hunter is one of just two hotspots for the enigmatic species, and that the creatures are monogamous throughout their lifetimes.
University of Technology Sydney (UTS) researcher David Harasti yesterday published a study started in 2005 on White’s seahorse, a species found only in estuaries between Forster and Wollongong.
Mr Harasti said his work following the creatures had borne fruit, forging a “baseline” to monitor future changes to their behaviour and numbers.
“The main reason for doing it was because seahorses became protected in NSW and we knew almost nothing about them,” Mr Harasti said.
Mr Harasti’s work discovered Port Stephens and Sydney Harbour were two population hotspots, with the Hunter population growing faster and larger than its southern counterparts.
He said the seahorses, found near popular dive site Fly Point, were a good barometer of how healthy the environment was.
“They’re an iconic species and they’re a bit like the canary in the mines,” Mr Harasti said.
“If they disappear, you probably have issues with your water quality.”
Port Stephens’ seahorse population also included Grandpa and Goldilocks, Mr Harasti said, two of the oldest seahorses on record.
Mr Harasti said they were one of several couples monitored that revealed White’s seahorses “fall in love” and remain monogamous.
“It’s very unusual in the marine world,” Mr Harasti said. “If the male and female are still alive, they will stay together indefinitely.”
RESEARCH: UTS’s David Harasti holding a seahorse. Picture: Justin Gilligan
Remains monogamous indefinitely unless mate dies
Males give birth
Can reproduce after seven to eight months
Grows very quickly to about 15cm