When you think of a seahorse, you probably imagine a beautiful yellow seahorse swimming in bright blue tropical waters. Or maybe you think of a lumpy pink, miniature seahorse that blends right into the coral around it.
You probably don’t think of a small, dung-brown-colored seahorse swimming in muddy waters. But don’t knock the drab little northern seahorse, especially if you’re in New York. Because this drab little fellow is probably swimming in waters near you.
Photo Credit: Flickr, MattSullivan
One of New York’s most surprising urban inhabitants, the northern lined seahorse lives in New York Harbor and other local waters. The northern seahorse only grows to around 5 or 6 inches long and has a hard, ridged and bony body that makes it particularly unpalatable to would-be predators. They especially love the pillars and seagrass underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. With plenty to grab onto, it’s actually a perfect habitat for seahorses.
Living in New York is not easy for people. And it’s even harder for seahorses. The harbors are among the most polluted, filled with trash and chemical spills that endanger the seahorses’ habitat and ability to find food. These little guys are also caught as bycatch far too often, their tails tangled in the web of commercial fishing nets.
Photo Credit: Flickr, NOAA Photo Library
Like chameleons and geckos, the northern lined seahorse does have one special defense: It can change color to mimic its surroundings. Northern lined seahorses can color-shift to bright orange, red or yellow, as well as black, brown and ash gray. They’re mostly found in a dull gray-brown — which is only what you would expect from a big-city fish. It’s perfect camouflage in muggy Manhattan waters.
Though you might not see the northern seahorse in New York, it’s definitely there. But you can do your part to ensure its continued survival by cleaning local waters and throwing away or recycling any trash you might see on the beach. Or else New York’s shores will befall a similar, grubby fate as its sidewalks, and the northern seahorse will be be pushed out from its home of many, many generations.
Learn about how you can help vulnerable marine animals by signing up with Oceana.