Hippocampus reidi 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Syngnathiformes Syngnathidae

Scientific Name: Hippocampus reidi Ginsburg, 1933
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Long-snout Seahorse, Slender seahorse, Slender Seahorse
Spanish Cabailito, Caballito de mar, Caballito hocico largo, Caballito Narizón
Hippocampus obtusus Ginsburg, 1933
Hippocampus poeyi Howell and Riviero, 1934
Taxonomic Source(s): Lourie, S.A., Pollom, R.A. and Foster, S.J. 2016. A global revision of the seahorses Hippocampus Rafinesque 1810 (Actinopterygii: Syngnathiformes): Taxonomy and biogeography with recommendations for future research. Zootaxa 4146(1): 1-66.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-10-04
Assessor(s): Oliveira, T. & Pollom, R.
Reviewer(s): Ralph, G.
Hippocampus reidi is a coastal seahorse species that inhabits corals, seagrasses, estuaries, and especially macroalgae and mangroves from North Carolina, throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, to southern Brazil. The species is threatened by the loss and degradation of some of its preferred habitats, particularly mangroves, due to coastal development. It is particularly threatened by being caught as bycatch in trawl and artisanal fisheries (and subsequently used for curios, religious amulets, or traditional medicines), and by being targeted for aquarium use. Although its listing on CITES Appendix II aims to regulate international trade to be sustainable, little is known about domestic trade, illegal and unreported trade, and the overall level of offtake from wild populations. Fishers have also recorded substantial declines in seahorses through much of this species' range. Based on fisher interview data and national listings in Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil, it is inferred that that this species has declined by more than 30% through most of its range, with declines ongoing. Populations in the Gulf of Mexico appear to be much more stable. Overall, it is inferred that this species has undergone declines approaching 30% which are still ongoing, and therefore H. reidi is listed as Near Threatened.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Hippocampus reidi inhabits coastal waters in the western Atlantic from North Carolina south along the U.S., throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, and along South America to southern Brazil (Musick et al. 2000, Hercos and Giarrizzo 2007, Silveira et al. 2014, R. Robertson pers. comm. 2014). Its depth range is 0-55 m (Vari 1982).
Countries occurrence:
Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Bermuda; Brazil (Alagoas, Amapá, Bahia, Ceará, Espírito Santo, Maranhão, Pará, Paraíba, Paraná, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Norte, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, São Paulo, Sergipe); Cayman Islands; Colombia (Colombia (mainland), Colombian Caribbean Is.); Costa Rica (Costa Rica (mainland)); Cuba; Dominica; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Haiti; Honduras (Honduran Caribbean Is., Honduras (mainland)); Jamaica; Mexico (Veracruz, Yucatán); Panama; Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico (main island)); Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States (Florida, North Carolina); Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of (Venezuela (mainland), Venezuelan Antilles); Virgin Islands, British; Virgin Islands, U.S.
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – western central; Atlantic – southwest
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):UnknownEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):Unknown
Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:Unknown
Lower depth limit (metres):55
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:During Project Seahorse trade surveys conducted between 2000–2001, fishers in Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama reported decreases in the catch of seahorses in general both in trawls (as bycatch) and by divers (J. Baum and I. Rosa, unpublished data), but the portion of these declines attributable to H. reidi is unknown.

From October 2005 to September 2006, monthly samplings were carried out at the Mamanguape estuary, State of Paraíba, in northeastern Brazil and a total of 280 seahorses were sampled (Castro et al. 2008); at the Camurupim/Cardoso estuary, Piauí, NE Brazil, 647 specimens were sampled (Mai and Rosa 2009); and at twelve Brazilian locations, 911 specimens were recorded from 2002 to 2006.

In Brazilian estuaries, H. reidi presented a mean density of 0.026 specimens/m², ranging from 0.0023-0.066 specimens/m² at sampled localities from 2002 to 2006 (Rosa et al. 2007, Mai and Rosa 2009). Lower densities were found at localities where trade was recorded (mean 0.013 specimens/m²) than in locations where no trade took place (mean 0.04 specimens/m²) (Rosa et al. 2007). At rocky shores in Rio de Janeiro state, mean densities could vary from 0.001 to 0.04 specimens/m² (Freret-Meurer and Andreata 2008, Oliveira and Freret-Meurer 2012). From December 2002 to November 2004 the population density of H. reidi at Araçatiba beach, which is in an Environmental Protection Area at Ilha Grande in Rio de Janeiro, significantly decreased during the two years of study. The difference in density during each month in the first and second year was more than half in most months (Freret-Meurer and Andreata 2008). Declines were reported by fishermen in several localities in at least five NE Brazilian states; in some localities, declines could reach up to 90% over the course of a decade (Rosa et al. 2005, 2011). Declines were also reported by vendors of zootherapeutic products in NE Brazil (Ferreira et al. 2012). Local extirpation has been reported in some locations (Rosa et al. 2011).

Declines were also reported in Colombia (Pineda et al. 2006), but their extent is unknown. In Cuba, from 2004 to 2005, mean density ranged from 0.01 to 0.0037 specimens/m² (Gutiérrez et al. 2011).

This species is listed as VU in national assessments throughout at least 30% of its range, with declines exceeding 30% (Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia). The only place where it is thought to be stable is in US waters, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico. Although population trends over the entire population have not been quantified, we infer declines at rates approaching 30% over the past 10 years based on the substantial ongoing local declines that have been documented.

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:UnknownPopulation severely fragmented:Unknown
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:UnknownAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Hippocampus reidi inhabits a variety of coastal habitats and holdfast types, including invertebrates such as bryozoans, sponges, and tunicates, gorgonian corals, seagrasses, estuaries, and especially on macroalgae (often the genus Caulerpa), mangroves (Avicennia shaueriana, Laguncularia racemosa, and Rhizophora mangle) and on artificial structures such as piers (Dias and Rosa 2003, Rosa et al. 2007, Mai and Rosa 2009, Gutiérrez et al. 2011, Aylesworth et al. 2015). Vari (1982) reports H. reidi at depths as great as 55 m. Small individuals tend to be found in shallower water than large animals (Dauwe 1993). In Brazilian estuaries, H. reidi is commonly found at mean depths lower than 0.40 m (Rosa et al. 2007). Indeed, shallow waters, warm temperatures and higher number of mangrove structures could be used to predict seahorse presence in estuarine habitats, as well as calmer waters (Aylesworth et al. 2015). In rocky shores in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, seahorses were mainly found at mean depths of 4.97 m (Oliveira and Freret-Meurer 2012). Hippocampus reidi is mostly found solitary, but mated pairs are common and the species was also recorded to form groups of up to seven individuals (Rosa et al. 2007, Mai and Rosa 2009).

The species feeds on crustaceans such as harpacticoid, calanoid, and cyclopoid copepods, caridean shrimps, gammarid and caprellid amphipods, nematodes, and ostracods. Juveniles fed more heavily on hymenopteran insects and mollusk and crustacean eggs, and females relied heavily on caridean shrimps (Felicio et al. 2006, Castro et al. 2008). They are usually sit-and-wait predators but sometimes actively pursue their prey (Felicio et al. 2006).

As in other seahorses, this species is ovoviviparous, and the males brood the young in a pouch prior to giving live birth (Foster and Vincent 2004). Males matured at 9.5 cm but did not carry embryos until they were 12.4 cm, while mature females were recorded at lengths of 8.8 cm  (Mai and Velasco 2011). A seven month 'resting period' was observed between pregnancies in Rio de Janeiro (Freret-Meurer and Andreata 2008). Hippocampus reidi are pair-bonded in the wild (B. Dauwe and M. Nijhoff in litt. to Lourie et al. 1999, Rosa et al. 2007). Reproduction occurs throughout the year but peak reproduction has been recorded from May- November in NE Brazil (Mai and Velasco 2011). Seahorse pairs were re-sighted in estuaries in Piauí and Rio Grande do Norte states, Brazil (Dias and Rosa 2003, Mai and Rosa 2009), and site fidelity and small home ranges reported in Brazil and in Cuba (Rosa et al. 2007, Mai and Rosa 2009, Mai and Velasco 2011, Hernández et al. 2016) suggest a monogamous sexual pattern.

The von Bertalanffy growth constant (k) was estimated at 1.195/yr and natural mortality ranged from 1.43 to 1.58/yr. Survival was calculated to be between 21% and 24%. Lifespan was estimated to be 2.5 years (Mai and Velasco 2011).

It was suggested that the availability of holdfasts could influence the spatial distribution of these seahorses (Dias and Rosa 2003, Aylesworth et al. 2015). The feeding behaviour of 57 specimens was recorded from May 2003 to September 2004 in estuarine habitats (Felicio et al. 2006) and 90 specimens had their activity rate evaluated at a rocky shore in SE Brazil, where pregnant males were found less active in relation to females and non-pregnant males (Freret-Meurer et al. 2012).
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):1
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Hippocampus reidi is retained as bycatch in industrial trawl fisheries and in artisanal small-scale fisheries, and is sometimes targeted live by divers for aquarium trade. It is one of the most widely held species of Hippocampus in public aquaria and is one of the most sought after seahorses in the international aquarium trade (Castro et al. 2008). The numbers of aquarium trade Hippocampus reidi that were traded internationally and recorded in the CITES trade database are 148,766 to 317,522 from captivity, 20,478 to 22-662 from the wild, and 2,476 from unknown origins (Koldewey and Martin-Smith 2010, Rosa et al. 2011). Between 2010 and 2014 annual reported export levels of H. reidi levelled off at just over 10 000 specimens (CITES 2016). Levels of domestic trade are unknown for most of the species' range.

Data from Brazil indicate that daily catches of live seahorses for the aquarium trade from January 1997–April 2004 led to an estimate of 715,000 live H. reidi that could be caught from wild populations annually in Brazil in that period (Rosa et al. 2011). Colourful (orange, yellow and red) specimens reached the highest prices; from 1997 to 2005, fishers were paid for a coloured seahorse a mean of US$1.23, while black and brown specimens had a mean price of US$1.04; coloured seahorses retail mean price was US$12.27, and dark coloured US$9.64 (Rosa et al. 2011). Daily catches of live seahorses for the aquarium trade in Brazil from January/1997–April/2004 led to an estimate of 715,000 live H. reidi that could be caught from wild populations annually in Brazil in that period (Rosa et al. 2011). Colourful (orange, yellow and red) specimens reached the highest prices; from 1997 to 2005, fishers were paid for a coloured seahorse a mean of US$1.23, while black and brown specimens had a mean price of US$1.04; coloured seahorses retail mean price was US$12.27, and dark coloured US$9.64 (Rosa et al. 2011).

The dried seahorse trade has no formal records in Brazil. Domestic trade data are available from interviews (n = 92) conducted with fishers and end-sellers from 2002 to 2009 (Rosa et al. 2011). The main source of dried H. reidi seahorses was the non-industrial bycatch in N-NE Brazil; trade volumes were estimated at a mean of 29.7 seahorses sold per month per trader, and a mean of 356.4 dried seahorses sold annually per trader (Rosa et al. 2011).

Dried seahorses were usually sold unadorned or as key chains. Occasionally some of them were sold as jewelry, shell crafts with shells and sea stars, or as 'dragons' with wings and eyes attached. These dried seahorses were sometimes ground and consumed in a drink as folk medicine to treat almost 30 diseases and health conditions (Rosa et al. 2013), including asthma, bronchitis, gastritis, baldness, wounds, and tuberculosis (Baum and Vincent 2005; Rosa et al. 2011, 2013; El Deir et al. 2012). Chinese populations in Panama and Peru sold seahorses commercially as medicine, for use as TCM. Dried seahorses have also been sold in Brazil for magic-religious purposes, in the form of “seahorse perfume” and amulets (called “pautás”), used to bring protection, good luck and to avoid evil eye, and also to attract emotional and financial success (Alves et al. 2012).

The live seahorses were traded as aquarium fishes. Also, in some countries, including Honduras and Costa Rica, they have in situ value because dive masters would take tourists to particular sites where these seahorses were located (Baum and Vincent 2005).  In Brazil, this activity is unregulated and performed in at least three NE states (Piauí, Ceará and Pernambuco), under the name of “passeio do cavalo-marinho”, in which seahorses are captured by “guides” and displayed for tourists in plastic or glass jars. There is no scientific impact assessment of this activity in the country (Ministério do Meio Ambiente 2011).

Levels of overall offtake from wild populations are unknown, but are thought to number at least in the 10s of thousands. The magnitude of the impacts of this use and trade on wild populations is not known.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Hippocampus reidi is threatened by being caught as bycatch in trawl and artisanal fisheries (e.g. Branco et al. 2015). It is also heavily targeted for the aquarium trade, where fishers have reported substantial declines (Rosa et al. 2011). The species may also be suffering as a result of mangrove, coral and seagrass habitat degradation and loss (Karnauskas et al. 2013, Jackson et al. 2014).  Particularly, it is potentially susceptible to habitat degradation due to its strong relationship with mangrove structures (Aylesworth et al. 2015). Experiments show that crude oil and hypoxia events in the Gulf of Mexico result in DNA damage and detrimental morphological functioning of H. reidi, but population impacts are not known (Negreiros et al. 2011).

This species is considered threatened in the United States by the American Fisheries Society (Musick et al. 2000). They cite the species' rarity and degradation of its seagrass habitats in South Florida as reasons for this listing.  Moreover, H. reidi is considered Vulnerable in Venezuela (Ron et al. 2015), Colombia (Ministerio de Ambiente, Vivienda y Desarrollo Territorial, 2010) and Brazil (IBAMA 2014). In the latter, the species is also listed as vulnerable in red lists of four states (Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, Paraná and Santa Catarina); in São Paulo, it is considered a species in need of fisheries management and policies for its conservation. In Mexico, it is listed on Mexico’s NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2001 as a species subject to special protection.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no species-specific conservation measures in place for Hippocampus reidi. The entire genus Hippocampus was listed on Appendix II of CITES in 2004. In Mexico, it is listed on Mexico’s NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2001 as a species subject to special protection. Permits or licenses are required to export dried syngnathids from Honduras and Nicaragua, and to export live syngnathids from Panama, Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua. In Brazil, other general measures that may benefit seahorses include a marine ornamental fishes Trade Database, the delimitation of specific airports through which wildlife can be exported, and the publication of an illustrated handbook of marine ornamental fishes by IBAMA (Sampaio and Nottingham 2008). Moreover, only registered fishers are allowed to collect marine ornamental fishes, and only professional fishers have authorisation to sell them, according to the Brazilian legislation applied to marine ornamental fishes (Rosa et al. 2011). All seahorse species in Brazil are included in the Plano de Ação Nacional para a Conservação dos Ambientes Coralíneos – PAN Corais, which establishes priority conservation strategies for threatened fishes and aquatic invertebrates (ICMBIO 2016).

There are annual quotas in Brazil of 250 specimens per company for the live trade (Rosa et al. 2011), although misidentifications as H. erectus may occur (Rosa et al. 2011). In 2004, seahorses were included in the National List of the Aquatic Invertebrates and Fish Species Overexploited or Threatened of Overexploitation (Ministério do Meio Ambiente 2004), which resulted in the publication, in 2011, of a proposal of management plan for the sustainable use of the Brazilian seahorse species. Specifically, the main objectives towards H. reidi were the recovery and maintenance of wild populations and preferred habitats (Ministério do Meio Ambiente 2011). The species distribution falls within several marine protected areas in Brazil (Rosa et al. 2007, Mai and Rosa 2009); indeed, some of these were created for and/or improved for seahorse conservation, such those that include the Rio Mamanguape estuary (Paraíba state) and the Rio Tubarão estuary (Rio Grande do Norte state).

Citation: Oliveira, T. & Pollom, R. 2017. Hippocampus reidi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T10082A17025021. . Downloaded on 22 September 2018.
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