Love is in the Sea

Jean-Michel in Papua New Guinea where he and his squad enjoyed diving the aslow lanea. Photo: Ocean Futures Society

Far beneath the waves, glistening under the new moon, the mood strikes right for two fish in love. Swimming side by side and holding tails, seahorses engage in a ritual of love that is both fascinating and magical. Seahorses, named for their ahorse-likea head, are actually fish despite their peculiar appearance. In the name of love, these animals engage in a spectacular showing of courtship. The male may expend days courting his beloved as the two swim tail in tail in a harmonious and majestic way. Such showings are believed to help the seahorses sync their motions with one another.A They may also change colour during their ritual, varying between lighter and darker tints. Seahorses are well known chameleons of the sea, and can rapidly change color to camouflage themselves into their environment.

MateA ForA Life

Following these rites, the two engage in a more formal courtship, where the male have started to display his brood pocket to his significant other.A In their final showing, the two release their hold from the sea grass and float toward the surface while the female deposits her eggs into the male.A Then, a phenomenon not insured anywhere else in the animal kingdom passes a the male becomes pregnant and carries the young through gestation and delivery.

Yet the love story of our seahorses is not over. Throughout the maleas pregnancy, which can scope from two to five weeks, the female returns to the male each day and the two partake in a amorning greeting.a This ritual lasts for a couple minutes, where they dance alongside one another, reaffirming their bond. Upon finding a mate and forming this unique bond, many seahorse pairs mate for life.A Following the next new moon, the courtship will recommence, and the cycle of life will begin once more.

However, in the wake of human development and expanding interests, seahorses face many new threats.A Habitat extermination poses an immediate hazard to many seahorse species. A

The increasing demand for development along coastal areas has meant extermination for vital environments such as mangroves, ocean grass beds, coral reefs and estuaries, all uniquely valuable ecosystems, upon which animals such as the seahorse depend for survival.A Since there is not sufficient data on seahorse populations and species, our impact on these animals is largely unknown. We still have time to learn more about these incredible animals without losing themA from our planet.

The pygmy seahorse is extremely difficult to spot in its host, where they match the colour and shape of the Gorgonian coral. Photo: Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

Lovebirds

Among the sounds of squawking albatross, a similar tale of love unfolds. After returning to land after their long months at sea, albatross pairs must find one another amongst a crowd of potentially thousands of migrating seabirds.A These lovebirds come from all corners of the ocean. Although they could spend their entire lives on the sea, hunting from the abundant ocean and sleeping atop the waves, there is one thing land can provide for them that water cannot: a place to breed.A

Albatross are truly unique birds.A They take many years to reach sex maturity, more years to find a partner, and then spend vast amounts of hour and energy raising their young.A They are among the largest of seabirds and although most have wingspans around five to six feet( 1.5 -1. 8m ), the largest of their species have wingspans of up to 11 feet( 3m )! They are also extraordinary long-lived animals, living up to 50 years or more.A When breeding season approaches, albatrosses oftentimes return to their natal colony. It is here where humans have had the opportunity to observe their elaborate and beautiful breeding rituals.

Albatrosses are quite the romantics. Although a young bird may reach breeding age around five years old, they are not yet versed in the ways of the albatross breeding dancings. Young birds spend years observing and practicing the art of their ritual, learning from both mimicry of their elders as well as lots of trial and error.A The dancings are comprised of various synchronized behaviors such as bill clacking, staring, pointing, preening, and calling.A Once they are able to recognize and react correctly to the various behaviours, young albatross begin the search for their soul mate. Though it may take years to find their perfect partner, albatross will choose a “individuals ” with whom they decide to share their life.A Upon choosing one another, they engage in a beautiful and elaborate dancing that becomes a language unique to each pair.A Having established their bond, the albatross pair will remain together for the rest of their lives.A

Growing threats from overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction continue to impact these magnificent birds.A Of the approximately 22 albatross species, 17 are listed as jeopardized. Long-line fishing practices have increased the number of albatross killed, since many birds diving for fish erroneously become hooked themselves. Pollution has also had detrimental effects on these seabirds, with plastics becoming lodged in their digestive tracts. Although we are at risk of loosing these beautiful animals, it is within our power to make a change.

In the midst of appreciating one another, we mustnat forget the love we share with the Ground. Upon watching the picturesque seahorse dancing or the elaborate mating rite of the albatross, it is easy to fall in love with all nature has to offer.A Now we must stand up for the ocean; we must protect what we love. A

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