Gaarr garuwaguba is the Gathang phrase name for Sea Horse, meaning horse belonging to water.
The sea horse is a related to the sea dragons and pipefishes, it’s genus is Hippocampus, which is derived from Ancient Greek language which points to its likeness to a horse and its sea dwelling nature.
This remarkable little fish is found mainly in warm tropical waters throughout the world and seeks protection of sheltered environments like reefs, sea grass forests, estuaries and mangroves.
Slow moving, they are poor swimmers and have distinctive armour like segmentations and a prehensile tail which is used to secure itself to the sea floor or other stationary object. They feed on the food around them, small shrimp and crustaceans are a favourite, and can reach around 40cms.
As with the sea dragon, it is the male that cares for the brood. The female deposits her eggs in the males pouch on its underside, where they are fertilised within and protected for around a month before the tiny fry emerge fully independent and ready to begin their own lives at sea.
The seahorse male ejects the tiny fry under the cover of night, up to 2500 for some species, and only a small fraction (less than 1%) will survive to reach adulthood. The vast majority are lost to sea currents, extreme temperatures or predation. The male begins the task of preparing his pouch for the next cycle the very next morning.
This species reminds me of the Octopus and is yet another example of sacrifice and the duty of care displayed by creatures of the natural world. Whereas with the octopus it is the female that expends great efforts to care for the brood to support the next generation in this context it is the male that takes the more direct caretaker role.
To me this is a wonderful living example of the extraordinary diversity seen in nature and shows us how this diversification can serve to embed resilience and support thriving communities.
Interestingly, some species form very close pair bonds and biofluorescence has been observed, where they absorb blue from their environment and emit green light literally glowing in the dark!