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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Biology

Inhabits gravel or sand bottoms around shallow reefs (Ref. 559); muddy estuaries and near mangroves, tolerating brackish waters (Ref. 48635). Ovoviviparous (Ref. 205). The male carries the eggs in a brood pouch which is found under the tail (Ref. 205).
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Distribution

Range Description

This species is known from southwest Asia and Australia. Specimens from north-west Australia may represent a separate species (Lourie et al. 1999). Further research is needed.
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Indo-West Pacific.
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Northwestern Pacific: South China Sea to Japan.
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Indo-Pacific: southern India to Japan, Australia and Tahiti. International trade is monitored through a licensing system (CITES II, since 5.15.04) and a minimum size of 10 cm applies.
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Western Pacific: Northern Sulawesi, Indonesia.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 18 - 22; Analspines: 0; Analsoft rays: 4
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Size

Maximum size: 170 mm TL
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Max. size

22.0 cm TL (male/unsexed; (Ref. 48635))
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Diagnostic Description

Description: (based on 54 specimens): Adult height: 8.0-15.0cm. Rings: 11+40-41 (38-43). Snout length: 2.2 (1.9-2.4) in head length. Dorsal fin rays: 20 (18-22) covering 2+1 rings. Pectoral fin rays: 17-18 (16-19). Coronet: very low, in line with arch of neck, visible as five tiny points. Spines: low and small to slightly raised. Other distinctive characters: very sharp hook-like cheek and eye spines; quite flat in appearance; narrow head; no nose spine.Color pattern: golden orange, sandy colored or totally black; may have large dark spots on the dorsolateral surface of the first, fourth and seventh trunk ring (less visible in dark specimens, and more common in males than females); some specimens ‘zebra striped’ in brown and white.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Hippocampus trimaculatus has been trawled from depths of less than 20 m. In Viet Nam it has been found in gravel and sandy bottom habitats (Lourie et al. 1999, Masuda et al. 1984).

This species may be particularly susceptible to decline. The limited information on habitat suggests they inhabit shallow habitats (Lourie et al. 1999) that are susceptible to human degradation, as well as making them susceptible to being caught as bycatch. All seahorse species have vital parental care, and many species studied to date have high site fidelity (Perante et al. 2002, Vincent et al. in review), highly structured social behaviour (Vincent and Sadler 1995), and relatively sparse distributions (Lourie et al. 1999). The importance of life history parameters in determining response to exploitation has been demonstrated for a number of species (Jennings et al. 1998).

Systems
  • Marine
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Environment

reef-associated; non-migratory; marine; depth range ? - 100 m (Ref. 52034), usually ? - 20 m (Ref. 30915)
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Depth range based on 11 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 4 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 10 - 98.7
  Temperature range (°C): 24.022 - 25.857
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.894 - 7.089
  Salinity (PPS): 34.451 - 35.361
  Oxygen (ml/l): 3.436 - 4.681
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.144 - 0.683
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.055 - 4.739

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 10 - 98.7

Temperature range (°C): 24.022 - 25.857

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.894 - 7.089

Salinity (PPS): 34.451 - 35.361

Oxygen (ml/l): 3.436 - 4.681

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.144 - 0.683

Silicate (umol/l): 1.055 - 4.739
 
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Trophic Strategy

Found on the continental shelf (Ref. 75154).
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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Male carries the eggs in a brood pouch (Ref. 205).
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Hippocampus trimaculatus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 26
Specimens with Barcodes: 27
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
A4cd

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2003

Assessor/s
Project Seahorse

Reviewer/s
Foster, S.J., Marsden, A.D. & Vincent, A.C.J. (Syngnathid Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
H. trimaculatus is listed as Vulnerable (VU A4cd) based on inferred declines of at least 30% caused by targeted catch, incidental capture, and habitat degradation. While there is little information on changes in numbers of the species, there is indirect evidence to suggest that declines have taken place and are continuing. This listing is consistent with the precautionary approach of the IUCN.

Hippocampus trimaculatus is traded for both traditional medicine (TM) and curios (Vincent and Perry, in prep.). It is one of the main seahorses involved in the TM trade in Asia (Vincent and Perry, in prep.). The demand for this species is high due to its large size, smooth texture, and pale complexion when dried (Vincent 1996), all desirable qualities for traditional medicine purposes. This species is also incidentally caught (bycatch) in other fisheries and affected by habitat degradation. Trade surveys conducted by Project Seahorse between 2000–2001 indicate that while the global trade of seahorses and other syngnathids appears to be increasing, fishers and other informants reported considerable numeric declines in seahorse catches and trade throughout the range of this species, without a commensurate decrease in effort. While the volume of this trade, and the proportion of the population that it represents, is unknown at this point, reported declines in numbers give reason for concern. We therefore suggest a precautionary listing of Vulnerable (VU A4cd).

Hippocampus kuda is also threatened by damage to its habitats. Land-based activities such as forestry often lead to increased siltation in surrounding marine waters, thereby smothering corals. Some fishing gears used by subsistence fishers on coral reefs result in substantial damage to the corals (M. Pajaro, pers. comm.). The decline in and fragmentation of the species’ habitats throughout its range raise the possibility of declines in populations in addition to those caused by fisheries.

History
  • 1996
    Vulnerable
  • 1996
    Vulnerable
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Population

Population
While exact population numbers for H. kuda remain unknown, Project Seahorse trade surveys conducted between 2000–2001 have inferred that seahorse numbers in the wild appear to have declined throughout the range of H. trimaculatus. For example, in Hong Kong traders reported that local seahorses common 30 years ago were rarely found in 2000, with the decrease in availability attributed to habitat destruction and pollution (B. Kwan, unpublished data). In India half of the surveyed fishers (n=80/160) reported decreases in catch of seahorses (A. Perry, unpublished data), while in the Philippines fishers targeting seahorses specifically (n=7) reported declines of between 50% and 95% from as early as 1980 and as recently as 1997 (M. Pajaro, unpublished data). The fishers in the Philippines cited overfishing, the increasing population of fishers and indiscriminate catch of seahorses, including pregnant and immature seahorses, as causes of the decline in catch (M. Pajaro, unpublished data).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Hippocampus trimaculatus is caught and traded for traditional medicines, and curios throughout its range (Vincent and Perry, in prep.). It is one of the most valuable seahorses in traditional Chinese medicine, and is found as an ingredient in kanpo, Japan’s traditional medicine. In general, indiscriminate catch, habitat degradation and exploitation are potential threats to this species. For example, in Hong Kong seahorses are threatened by habitat degradation and pollution, and may be susceptible to incidental catch in the shrimp trawl fishery (B. Kwan, unpublished data). In China seahorses are also caught as bycatch although no information exists on volumes. In the Philippines declines in seahorse availability are attributed to overfishing, an increasing number of fishers, and non-selective catch of seahorses (e.g., taking pregnant or immature seahorses) and habitat destruction (M. Pajaro, unpublished data). In Taiwan H. trimaculatus are observed in the dried trade and are landed as bycatch (A. Perry, unpublished data).
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Vulnerable (VU) (A4cd)
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The entire genus Hippocampus was listed in Appendix II of CITES in November 2002. Implementation of this listing will begin May 2004. The Australian populations of this species were moved under the Australian Wildlife Protection Act in 1998, so export permits are now required. The permits are only granted for approved management plans or captive bred animals. Such management was transferred under the new Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in 2001. Many states also place their own controls on the capture and/or trade of syngnathid fishes. All seahorses are listed on Schedule I of India’s Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, banning their capture and trade. This species is also included in the 1994 Viet Nam Red Data Book.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Importance

aquaculture: commercial
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Wikipedia

Flat-faced seahorse

Hippocampus raji Whitley, 1955
Hippocampus takakurae Tanaka, 1916

The flat-faced seahorse, longnose seahorse, low-crowned seahorse, or three-spot seahorse, Hippocampus trimaculatus, is a species of fish in the Syngnathidae family. It is found in Australia, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, French Polynesia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Its natural habitat is shallow seas. It is threatened by habitat loss.

References

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