Home range behaviour of the monogamous Australian seahorse, Hippocampus whitei

We provide a quantitative account of local movements in the monogamous Australian species Hippocampus whitei, as a rare report of home range size in fishes living in seagrass habitats. Our study took place in shallow Posidonia seagrass beds in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour), principally during January to March.

Daily monitoring of individual seahorses during underwater observations revealed that both sexes maintained small and apparently undefended home ranges for several breeding cycles at least. Female home ranges were significantly larger than males, when analysed by both the minimum convex polygon and grid cell methods.

Home range size was not correlated with either body size or seahorse density. Presumably, home ranges were small in H. whitei because camouflage (to avoid predation and to capture prey), mate fidelity and parental brooding meant they accrued little benefit (and potentially considerable cost) from moving more extensively. Sex differences in home range size may arise from constraints associated with male pregnancy.

These fish are among the most sedentary of vertebrates, with relatively small home ranges equalled only by coral reef species. In terms of their conservation, relatively small protected areas may be sufficient to support breeding populations of H. whitei although that limited movement may result in considerable delays in the recolonisation of depleted areas.

Vincent, A.C.J., Evans, K.L. & A.D. Marsden (2005). Home range behaviour of the monogamous Australian seahorse, Hippocampus whitei. Environmental Biology of Fishes 72(1):1-12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-004-4192-7