Another week has flown by here at Wakatobi Dive Resort. I have now spent 25 hours observing my little group of Denise’s pygmy seahorses (Hippocampus denise) on the resort’s House Reef. You may remember in my last blog I mentioned a female that was giving me some heart-stopping moments when she made epic journeys from one part of her gorgonian coral host to another (for a pygmy seahorse 20cm is epic!).
She had also been landing on dead parts of the coral and tended to stick to the mucus and would take several minutes of thrashing about to free herself. Well, she still doesn’t seem to have picked up much common sense and continues to have an adventurous spirit!
She should actually take more care since her mate, I call “Number One”, will give birth tomorrow morning, and she has started to swell with eggs in preparation for transferring them after he gives birth. I should mention that there has been some discussion among the guests as to assigning names to the pygmies currently known as one, two, four and five! There are two males and two females and I could use some ideas!
The gorgonian coral that the group lives on is quite large and old and is starting to show signs of wear and tear. Unfortunately Denise’s and Bargibant’s pygmy seahorses both require a gorgonian coral host on which to live. A pygmy without a gorgonian coral is not a happy little fish.
In fact these two species can’t survive without a gorgonian host. Gorgonian corals are susceptible to poor water conditions and disease, and these are both becoming more prevalent as we continue to change the environment. Hopefully this doesn’t herald the beginning of more pictures such as the one here of pygmies on dead branches of coral.
Apart from pygmies this week, we had an encounter with dozens of pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins on the way to the dive site Blade. They rode the bow of the boat and passed very close for quite some time as we crossed between the Sawa and Kaledupa reef systems.
Another exciting big fish encounter was a huge marlin at Turkey Beach, the site adjacent to the House Reef. As well as these experiences, I had close encounters with a mobula ray (a small relative of mantas), black tip reef shark and plenty of green and hawksbill turtles. In fact both species of turtle have begun nesting on the resort’s beach, and the eggs are being protected against poaching, since turtle eggs are a local delicacy.
I look forward to the coming week, when I hope to be present at the birth of the next generation of pygmy seahorses. The second male has only just become pregnant and will continue to expand in girth over the week. I will report in a week’s time how the birth went and the continuing pregnancy. Meanwhile I have posted more images on my website and more will go up as events unfold.