First-Ever Baby Seahorse Spotted in British Waters

baby seahorse dorset england photo

A tiny baby seahorse was measured off the coast of Dorset, England. Image via the Seahorse Trust.

It must have been like finding a needle in a haystack, but somehow, in murky water conditions, diver Neil Garrick-Maidment, the executive director of the Seahorse Trust, spotted a single 1.5-inch-long female baby seahorse "clinging onto a piece of seagrass" off the coast of Studland, Dorset -- a finding so rare he said it was "akin to seeing a yeti in the wild."The Dorset waters are Britain's largest known breeding colony for seahorses, according to the Telegraph, which writes that adult, pregnant male, and juvenile spiny seahorses have been spotted there since surveys of the area began in 1994. But this was something new.

Tough Odds for Baby Seahorses
"These babies are so small they have never been seen before in Britain, and as far as I know in Europe either," Garrick-Maidment said. "The species is literally hanging on by its fingertips so it's heartening to see them breeding here. I can't overestimate how rare it is to see something like this. It's absolutely, mind-blowingly fantastic."

The odds aren't good for any individual seahorse. Of the 300 to 500 itsy-bitsy babies (each just over 1/8 inch long) in any given brood, two or three are lucky to survive to adulthood, while the rest get eaten by fish. The few that reach adulthood grow to about 6 or 7 inches and eat "a staggering 3,000 plus pieces of miniature plankton every 24 hours," according to the Seahorse Trust.

Boat Anchors May Damage Seagrass Habitat
Environmentalists think people may be making life even harder for seahorses by damaging their seagrass habitat with boat anchors. "[The discovery of the baby] does not mean [seahorses] are thriving, quite the reverse, they appear to be hanging on in there against the odds of hundreds of boats dropping anchors and mooring chains ripping up the seabed, destroying their fragile home," a Seahorse Trust spokesperson told the BBC. A study is being conducted to see if the many boats in the Dorset area are indeed harming the strange little creatures.

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