The mysterious life of Mister K: a seahorse life history study in Cambodia

A seahorse (female Hippocampus kuda) getting comfortable around our survey line.

Guest post by Delphine Duplain and Amick Haissoune, project coordinators at Marine Conservation Cambodia, in conjunction with Dr. Tse-Lynn Loh, postdoctoral research associate at Shedd Aquarium

A seahorse (female Hippocampus kuda) getting comfortable around our survey line. (Photo by Amick Haissoune, Marine Conservation Cambodia)

Once upon a time, there were some buoys marking the edges of our house reef off Koh Seh in Kep Province, Cambodia, thus protecting the reef from passing boats. Surprisingly, the ropes holding those buoys seem to have another unexpected purpose: a shelter for some of our fishes. It is interesting to realize how the most useful purpose of an object is sometimes totally different from its primary function. Eventually, after the first aquatic pilgrims settled on our installations, we noticed a specific seahorse living on a particular rope. Curious, we decided to monitor his comings and goings, recording all information we could about him, including his behaviors and size, and photographing his unique features. As time passed by, we got to know each other, waiting with impatience to go see him, and finding excuses to go near his rope. That’s how our intriguing visitor, a male Hippocampus kuda (the common seahorse), affectionately named Mister K, became a true member of our community. One grey morning, Mister K vanished as mysteriously as he appeared. Days passed by and with no sign of our dear friend, we started to fear the worst…

Weeks later, we encountered another male seahorse of the same species near where Mister K used to hang. Every piece of information we had – measurements and photographs – seemed to point toward the visitor being Mister K. Unfortunately, due to their miniature size and mastery of camouflage, seahorse individuals are difficult to identify from one another. They’re not as similar as two —> Read More