When two of my faithful Blue Theology readers, Michelle Tonozzi and Michael Lipson, both sent me stories of seahorses on Tuesday, I knew that God or the universe or the spirit of the ocean or my muse wanted me to write about these adorable fish.
Yes, fish, vertical fish. Not horses. And yes, the males carry the babies, and are almost constantly “pregnant” – really it’s more like incubating. Fertilized females do the initial work and then hand the embryos off to the guys, thereby gaining some time and greater freedom of travel until the next round– why is this the only species that has this great arrangement?
Michelle’s fab pic of the storm drain reminds us that the sea starts everywhere. Any and all plastic, or auto oil, or pesticides, whether in California or in Kansas, they all eventually flow to the sea. The sea starts in our own homes, businesses, schools. Think of those marine gallopers – don’t hurt them.
Mike sent a link to an LA Times story about Roger Hanson, a retired school teacher and avid scuba diver who discovered a small community of Pacific seahorses just off the coast of Long Beach.
For three years now he has visited the 4 seahorses, who live in just 15 feet of water, every 5 days and logged detailed information about their behavior, informing and impressing seahorse scientists from Canada to San Diego. When he saw some high school kids frolicking near their habitat, he created an artificial home for the fish out deeper, made of palm fronds and seaweed, and gradually the fish moved there.
“After three years of observation, Hanson has collected new evidence about seahorse mating practices. His research suggests that although most seahorses are monogamous, a female will mate with two males if there are no other female seahorses around.
“He also found that males, who are in an almost constant state of pregnancy, tend to stick to an area about the size of a king-size mattress, while the females roam up to 150 feet from their home during a typical day.
“Eventually, he may be able to help scientists answer another long-standing question: What is the lifespan of Pacific seahorses in the wild? Some researchers say about five years; others think it could be up to 12.”
Warmer sea water had brought these fish farther north than they are usually found, another effect of climate change.
Hanson is happy to show other divers the seahorses and share his passion, but he keeps secret their home location, requiring photographers turn off their GPS.
“Hanson says that getting to know these strange, almost mythical beings has profoundly affected his life.
““I swear, it has made me a better human being,” he says. “On land I’m very C-minus, but underwater, I’m Mensa.””
Blue Theology lessons from seahorses:
-The sea starts in our sink and trash can. Our habitats are all connected. No one is, or lives on an island.
-God seems to love diversity – so many different ways to live, love, reproduce.
-“I must go down to the sea again, for the call of the running tide, is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied.” If the sea is calling you, go there, even dive in!
-Pay attention wherever you explore. Hidden treasure and fellow creatures linger nearby.
-Protect, build new homes, study, share – all good stewardship.