Hippocampus algiricus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Syngnathiformes Syngnathidae

Scientific Name: Hippocampus algiricus Kaup, 1856
Common Name(s):
English West African Seahorse
Hippocampus deanei Duméril 1857
Hippocampus kaupii Duméril 1870
Hippocampus punctulatus Kaup 1856
Taxonomic Source(s): Kaup, J.J. 1856. Catalogue of Lophobranchiate Fish in the Collection of the British Museum. London, UK.
Taxonomic Notes: The type specimen was sent from Algiers, Algeria by Guichenot who reported this species occurred, albeit ‘very rarely’, in Béjaïa (formerly Bougie) (Guichenot 1850). No other specimens have been found from Algeria since this time, and we restrict the current distribution of Hippocampus algiricus to West Africa. H. algiricus is very closely related to the H. kuda-complex (Teske et al. 2005) and is only 1.3% divergent from H. reidi (Silveira et al. 2014; Casey et al. 2004; Teske et al. 2004; BOLD 2016), but is here retained as a valid separate species due to the geographic distance between the West African and Brazilian coasts. Further research is needed to determine the level of connectivity and gene exchange between the two populations.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2cd+4cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-11-22
Assessor(s): Pollom, R.
Reviewer(s): Otero Ferrer, F. & Ralph, G.
Contributor(s): Wiswedel, S., West, K. & Czembor, C.A.
Hippocampus algiricus is a coastal seahorse species that inhabits the coast of West Africa from Senegal to Angola, and also the Canary Islands, Cape Verde, and Sao Tome and Principe. The species is a habitat generalist, and is sometimes targeted for use in the aquarium trade. It is also caught in substantial numbers as bycatch and subsequently traded for use in traditional medicines and as curios. Based on local trade surveys and international trade data reported to CITES, the trade in this species has accelerated since the late 1990s. Combined with habitat loss and degradation throughout the region, it is suspected that past and ongoing declines of at least 30% may increase this species' risk of extinction. Therefore Hippocampus algiricus is listed as Vulnerable under the criterion A4cd.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species occurs in the Eastern Central Atlantic ocean off the coast of West Africa, from Senegal to Angola (Alfonso et al. 1999, Lourie et al. 2004, Mamonekene et al. 2006). The species has also been observed off the coasts of offshore island in the Canary Islands, Cape Verde, and Sao Tome and Principe (González et al. 2014, Otero-Ferrer et al. 2015, iNaturalist 2016, Lourie 2016). The type specimen was located off the coast of Algeria in the 1850s (Kaup 1856), but subsequent research and a lack of any additional specimens from this well-monitored area indicates this sourcing is likely an error. Pending further evidence, the range is considered to exclude the Mediterranean.
Countries occurrence:
Angola; Benin; Cameroon; Cape Verde; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Liberia; Nigeria; Sao Tomé and Principe (Principe, Sâo Tomé); Senegal; Sierra Leone; Spain (Canary Is.); Togo
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – eastern central; Atlantic – southeast
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):25
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Population declines are suspected as a result of habitat degradation, coastal development (Portmann 1989), and mortality from intense trawling bycatch, which occurs throughout this species’ range (Kristjonsson 1968, Portmann, 1989, FAO 2001, Cisneros-Montemayor et al. 2016), and large volumes of documented international trade (Evanson et al. 2011, UNEP-WCMC 2012).

Hippocampus algiricus has also been selected by the CITES Animals Committee for the Review of Significant Trade following COP15 (CITES 2012).

Overall, it is suspected that a 30% decline of this species within a 10-year window now and into the future is likely.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:UnknownPopulation severely fragmented:Unknown
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:UnknownAll individuals in one subpopulation:Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Hippocampus algiricus inhabits shallow coastal areas with silt, mud, gravel, sand, seagrass, or macroalgae (Lourie 2016). This species has also been found clinging to large sponges and rhodoliths (Wirtz et al. 2007). They are usually found in the shallow photic zone up to a depth of 25 m (Wirtz et al. 2007).

Little is known about feeding, but this species likely consumes small benthic and/or planktonic crustaceans such as harpacticoid and cyclopoid copepods, gammarid shrimps, and mysids (Woods et al. 2002, Kendrick and Hyndes 2005, Kitsos et al. 2008, Yip et al. 2015, Valladares et al. 2016). 

Like all seahorses, they are ovovivparous and females transfer eggs to the male’s brood pouch where the embryos are nurtured prior to live birth (Foster and Vincent 2004). All seahorse species also have vital parental care, and many species studied to date have high site fidelity (e.g., Perante et al. 2002), highly structured social behaviour (e.g., Vincent and Sadler 1995), and relatively sparse distributions (Lourie et al. 1999).

Size at maturity is roughly 9 cm (at 16.1 cm 50% of individuals were mature), with a maximum size recorded for the species of 22 cm (Cisneros-Montemayor et al. 2016).
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):2-3
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Seahorses are traded globally for use in aquairums, as curios, and in traditional medicines (Vincent et al. 2011a). Trade of Hippocampus algiricus specifically was undocumented in the 1990s (Lourie et al. 2004), however, as early as 1996 there has been recorded trade of hundreds of kilograms of seahorses annually from West African countries such as Guinea, Gambia, Senegal and Togo (Vincent et al. 2011b) and since this species is the only seahorse recorded in some of these areas, it is fair to assume that much of this trade was in H. algiricus.

Between 2004 and 2008, an average of 700,000 individual wild seahorses were traded internationally every year from West Africa (Evanson et al. 2011, UNEP-WCMC 2012). These seahorses were exported predominantly to Asian countries (UNEP–WCMC 2012), presumably for traditional medicines (Vincent et al. 2011a, b). Due to the apparent increase in trade of H. algiricus over the last decade, the advancing economies of Asian countries importing this species, and the increasing trawling pressure on West African fisheries that occurs in the same habitat as H. algiricus (FAO 2001), it is suspected that exploitation levels will increase, with a corresponding increasing in pressure on H. algiricus populations. Recent surveys have begun to uncover this trade and show that pressure on this species has been increasing over the past 10 to 15 years (Cisneros-Montemayor et al. 2016). Guinea and Senegal were reported as sources of 57 and 37% of wild exports of H. algiricus (CITES 2016). Parties recommended to suspend trade in H. algiricus from these two states for failure to meet the recommendations by deadlines.
Hippocampus algiricus is the fifth-most traded seahorse, with 320,000 individuals having been reported to CITES between 2004 and 2011 (Foster et al. 2016).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Habitat degradation along the coast is also a concern for this shallow-intertidal species. There is a history of marine contamination from heavy metals, pesticides, oil, and human wastes, as well as coastal development and intensive fishing (Portmann 1989), which may affect populations of H. algiricus.

Shrimp trawling, with high levels of by-catch and ever-increasing demand, occurs extensively along the coast of West Africa in the same habitats as H. algiricus (Kristjonsson 1968, Blaber et al. 2000, FAO 2001). It is known that trawling catches large numbers of seahorses as bycatch when populations of seahorses are present in trawling areas (Baum et al. 2003, McPherson and Vincent 2004, Giles et al. 2006, Perry et al. 2010). Bycatch of H. algiricus occurs in West Africa (Cisneros-Montemayor et al. 2016), likely to the detriment of this population. Fishing pressure from artisanal fishers has also increased dramatically in recent years and this, coupled with little enforcement of minimum mesh sizes for shrimp trawling in countries such as Guinea, is putting heavy pressures on local seahorse populations (K.West pers. comm. 2012, Cisneros-Montemayor et al. 2016).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no species-specific conservation measures in place for Hippocampus algiricus. Along with all other seahorses, H. algiricus is listed on CITES Appendix II. This species likely occurs in the Bijagos Archipelago Biosphere Reserve in Guinea-Bissau (within the species’ suspected range, Agardy 1999, F. Otero pers. comm. 2016).

Citation: Pollom, R. 2017. Hippocampus algiricus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T41007A54907846. . Downloaded on 22 July 2018.
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