Researchers are rushing to save a Bahamian pond critical to the understanding of seahorse ecology — as well as their evolution. (Image Credit: Shane Gross)
Joshua Rapp Learn
The first time biologist Heather Mason Jones heard about the seahorses on Eleuthera Island, she had trouble believing in a place where seahorses were as common as other fish. After 29 years studying the animals, the University of Tampa seahorse expert had never seen more than a handful together underwater in her whole career. But once she was immersed in the emerald waters of the mile-long Sweetings Pond, which sits on a narrow crescent of an island in the Bahamas, she started to believe the hype.
“It was an absolutely magical moment,” she says, adding that she saw 16 of the animals in several dives during the first weekend in the water there — an enormous amount, given she had only ever seen three or four in a single dive or snorkel trip. “Until you see it, it’s hard to believe that people aren’t exaggerating.”
While they may be well known in popular imagination, seahorses are actually an unusual sight in the ocean, even for researchers whose job is to observe them. Further research by Mason Jones and her colleagues has since revealed that Sweetings Pond has one of the most concentrated populations of seahorses in the world — at times, over 10 times denser than the global average. Read more >>