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Successful Closure of Life Cycle of endangered Yellow Seahorse, Hippocampus kuda in captivity
Successful breeding of first generation (F1) yellow seahorse by the researchers of National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa was reported during late 2008. These F1 generation seahorse juveniles were raised on a diet of wild mixed zooplankton,
and wild mysid shrimps. The first birth of F2 generation juveniles (~100) were observed after 380 days of growth during early February 2010. Closing the complete life cycle of
in captivity from birth to adulthood with relatively fast growth rate, low mortality and early maturity (F2 generation) has now been achieved. The significance of this research in completely closing the life cycle of this endangered seahorse species opens up avenues for commercial aquaculture and conservation initiatives. The project is being funded by the Dep. of Biotechnology, Govt. of India.
Seahorses are fascinating group and remarkable group of fishes with their unusual body shape and their biology, with males incubating the fertilized eggs in a brood pouch. They belong to the family, Syngnathidae. It has been reported that at least 25 million seahorses (> 20 metric tonnes, dried) are traded annually for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), as aquarium fish and curios and nearly 77 nations and territories are involved in the seahorse trade. India was contributing to about 30% of global seahorse trade until 2001 and now all species of seahorses have been brought under the schedule I of the Wild Life Act, 1972 to prohibit exploitation.
The oceanic yellow seahorse,
(Bleeker, 1852), is widely distributed throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific region inhabiting shallow inshore habitats such as mangroves, sea grass beds and estuaries. It is one of the most heavily traded seahorse species in many Southeast Asian countries for TCM and its conservation status is currently listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as ‘vulnerable’. As per the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), all species of seahorses have been placed under Appendix II which states that captive breeding could be undertaken for stock enhancement programme and aquaculture purposes.
Several attempts to culture seahorses for successive generations under captivity in the recent past have met with limited success as a result of severe problems of mass mortality and low growth rates due to inadequate nutrition and disease. Closure of the life cycle in captivity and production of the next generation of young has not well documented. Improved seahorse husbandry and rearing could help reduce pressure on wild populations, by ensuring that those animals in captivity live for longer and by creating the possibility of trade.
Successful life cycle experiment of yellow seahorse will help to facilitate the development of small-scale aquaculture farms by seahorse fishermen, as a viable alternative to capturing wild seahorses and conservation initiatives.
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