"Seahorses are considered fabled creatures by many; something that only exists
in old mythical tales of the ocean. But these curious animals really exist –
and they’re not the only members of the Syngnathidae family of fishes. Other
syngnathids are pipefish, pygmy pipehorses and seadragons, and all are
Sadly, syngnathids all over the world are at risk. They face major threats,
ranging from both intentional and unintentional harvesting to habitat loss and
alterations. Syngnathids are commonly found in shallow, coastal environments,
which magnifies the impacts of these threats.
Syngnathids, and specifically seahorses, are the subject of various global and
regional research initiatives. They are relatively well studied in many parts
of the world. This is, however, not true for sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the
published research from the region has focused on the endangered Knysna
seahorse (Hippocampus capensis
) and the critically endangered estuarine
pipefish (Syngnathus watermeyeri
), both found in South Africa. Recently, a
pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus nalu
) was also discovered in Sodwana Bay, South
Africa – the first ever recorded from Africa.
But South Africa is just one country on a vast continent. This prompted us to
conduct a comprehensive review of the diversity, distribution, ecology and
conservation status of the family Syngnathidae in sub-Saharan Africa and
adjacent islands. We attempted to collate all existing information, data and
observations of syngnathids in the region.
Our findings unveiled a total of 63 syngnathid species across 26 genera in the
study area. Mozambique exhibited the highest species diversity, followed by
Madagascar and South Africa. There were many interesting, exciting data points,
but it also became evident that regionally much needs to be done in terms of
research and conservation action on the ground (or rather, in the water!)."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics