Published in Bioflux

Pygmy Paper

The lifecycle of the pygmy seahorse explored by richard_ross_48

 

To hide in the knobby sea fans they call home, Bargibant’s pygmy seahorses have evolved exquisite camouflage

Photos by Rich Ross

Lumpsucker

By , KQED Science (some footage by Rich Ross)

Alternate copy of video: https://vimeo.com/124145465

Over the summer, biologists from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco returned from an expedition to the Philippines with some very rare and diminutive guests, a mating pair of pygmy seahorses. The two tiny fish, each shorter than an inch and bright orange, were collected as part of a larger study of the stunning biodiversity found in the “Twilight Zone” of the ocean. It’s a relatively unexplored environment located at depths where the bright tropical sunlight barely penetrates.

Pygmy seahorses live their entire adult lives attached to a type of coral called a Gorgonian sea fan. The seahorses use their long tails to grab on to the delicately branched sea fans. But what’s really amazing is their ability to match the coral’s bright color and knobby texture. They blend in so perfectly that they are barely visible, even to a trained eye.

More people have walked on the moon than have seen a juvenile land on a sea fan.

Pygmy seahorses are nearly impossible to raise in captivity. More people have walked on the moon than have seen a juvenile land on a sea fan. Until recently, there was no record of the seahorses ever living long enough to breed in an aquarium. As a result, very little is known about them, making them extremely attractive to researchers eager to learn about the mysterious species.

One of the biggest hurdles is keeping the host sea fans alive, since the pygmy sea horses cannot live without them. Biologists Matt Wandell and Rich Ross knew this would be tough, but they had been preparing since 2011 when Bart Shepherd, Director of the Steinhart Aquarium, issued them a challenge. They were tasked with keeping the sea fans alive for three years before they could even attempt bring back the seahorses.  More »

From Ultramarine

Originally from Science Today at the California Academy of Sciences

Academy researchers are among the first to study tiny, fascinating pygmy seahorses that live exclusively on coral in the Philippines.

 

From Advanced Aquarist

The answer to the struggle of what to feed marine predators that require live foods is right under our noses. Fish might be friends, but in the real world the may also be food.
Richard Ross' pair of Dr. Seuss fish, Belonoperca pylei

Richard Ross’ pair of Dr. Seuss fish, Belonoperca pylei

Back in March, I wrote about Chad Vossen feeding a platinum clownfish that was to be culled to juvenile Dwarf Cuttlefish, Sepia bandnesis, and talked about how clownfish destined to be culled might be a great source of marine feeders for predatory marine animals. As a follow up I present to you the below video: Dr. Seuss eats Nemo. In the video I feed my pair of Dr. Seuss Fish, Belonoperca pylei, some captive bred designer clownfish that were raised in quarantine conditions, and were destined for the culling block. These clownfish were provided to me by Bay Area Reefers President, Steinhart Aquarium Volunteer (Thanks David!) and clownfish breeder extraordinaire, David Sheh.

https://vimeo.com/104619466

Feeding marine predatory animals can be difficult because finding appropriate live foods can come with all kinds of problems. Availability can be challenging, as finding the right size prey items, in the quantity you need them, when you need them can be problematic. Disease and parasites from wild caught prey items can infect your predatory fish, and quarantine of such animals is and added expense, as well as taking up time and resources.  Worse, the ethical issues surrounding wild caught feeder animals are significant; using animals flown halfway around the world as feeders seems exceedingly wasteful.  Furthermore, with some aquarium fish potentially to be listed as threatened or endangered in the endangered species act, the practice of feeding out wild caught animals can become even more inflammatory. Cultured freshwater prey items don’t offer a great alternative as they can have a different nutritional profile from saltwater prey items, and can present sub optimal results – for example, in my experience Dwarf Cuttles fed solely freshwater ghost shrimp tend to lay much fewer eggs, and fewer viable eggs than cuttles fed saltwater shrimp.

If only there were a whole bunch of captive bred, saltwater animals that nobody wanted, weren’t sellable, and were often culled as a matter of course. Oh wait. There are.

More »

From reef2rainforest.com
b
y Matt Pedersen

Adult Pygmy Seahorse, Hippocampus bargibati,  on pink coral, Muricella- it was unknown if they would venture onto the pink coral. Image by Richard Ross

Adult Pygmy Seahorse, Hippocampus bargibati, on pink coral, Muricella – it was unknown if they would venture onto the pink coral. Image by Richard Ross

Opinion by Matt Pedersen

We just shared the news of the first successful captive-breeding of Hippocampus bargibanti at the wet hands of Steinhart aquarists Matt Wandell and Richard Ross. Marine breeders, and more specifically seahorse propagators, are no doubt ecstatic (Dare I borrow a line from from Ross: “Their heads are falling off”).

Of course, why didn’t this happen until now, and why can’t we all rush out to buy a captive-bredBargibant’s Seahorse? More »

From reef2rainforest.com
by Matt Pedersen

An adult Bargibant's Pygmy Seahorse, behind the scenes at the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences - image courtesy Richard Ross.

An adult Bargibant’s Pygmy Seahorse, behind the scenes at the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences – Image courtesy Richard Ross.

Matt Wandell and Richard Ross are two professional aquarists who need no introduction to serious marine aquarium audiences. This dynamic duo of public aquarists has the kind of job most all of us would gladly commit manslaughter to have, working for the Stienhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences. Wandell and Ross get to work on the type of aquarium systems most of us can only dream of and certainly will never afford.  As if that wasn’t enough, they get to galavant around the globe on expeditions looking for new and interesting animals and husbandry challenges that many of us will never have the opportunity to tackle – like keeping and breedingHippocampus bargibanti, Bargibant’s Pygmy Seahorse. Can you smell, can you taste, the envy? More »

From WIRED
BY NICK STOCKTON

10 day old baby Pygmy Seahorse hunting copepods

10 day old baby Pygmy Seahorse hunting copepods

For the past three weeks, Richard Ross has been spending his mornings next to a small tank in a back room at the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco. He leans in close. Not only is the room dark, but the fish inside this tank are masters of hiding in plain sight. They are Bargibant’s pygmy sea horses, and their orange, studded bodies twitch and sway just like the piece of coral they’ve wrapped their tiny, tiny tails around.

They are the first pair of pygmy sea horses to ever see the inside of an aquarium, and Ross is the first biologist to watch their daily pair bonding in a controlled environment.

As the lights slowly turn on, Ross can see that the two fish, each barely an inch long, are facing each other and twitching in unison. They rub snouts and butt heads. This ritual is part of their mating cycle, which culminates every 14 days with the birth of 60 to 70 babies. Immediately afterward, the pair detach from their pieces of coral, wrap their tails tightly, and the female deposits her eggs into the male’s belly sac, where he’ll fertilize and incubate the clutch.

Sea horse researchers call this the copulatory rise. ”The whole thing is very awkward,” says Matt Wandell, Ross’ colleague at the Steinhart Aquarium. On June 22nd, Ross and Wandell expect the pair to give birth for the third time since they arrived at the aquarium on May 20th. More »

Richard Ross captured some great close-up video footage of tiny Banggai cardinalfish still in their eggs. Normally the male holds the eggs in his mouth; however the male spit most of his eggs a couple days prior so these were stripped shortly thereafter.

For more about breeding these fish check this out – http://packedhead.net/2008/breeding-the-banggai-cardinalfish/

From Reefbuilders

By  on Dec 05, 2013
dr-seuss-fish-belonoperca-pylei-5

Leave it to Rich Ross to get it in his ceph-head that it is possible to pair and breed the highly prized Dr. Seuss fish. Not only does it take an investment of time and space, but money because as you know Dr. Seuss Fish are not cheap, not even by the pair, and they eat a lot.

After nearly a decade of working with all manner of Cephalopods, octopus and cuttlefish, Rich is aiming for something totally new, and completely uncharted territory. No one has ever raised soapfish, let alone spawned them and the closest species on record as having been spawned is probably the distantly related Liopropoma basslets. More »

From Reefs.com

BBC_9960-L
There has been a strange sense of romance across reef dwelling animals of late, with reports of very large spawning events we do believe, love is in the air.  It seems a few people have taken on some interesting breeding projects, including this one by Rich Ross, the Dr. Seuss Soapfish Belonoperca pylei.  Rich reports that the fish are sleeping together and fingers are still crossed for no bad behavior between them.  Stay tuned for further updates and see our next post on the frisky lightning maroon clownfish.

From CORAL Magazine


Hybrid Ornate Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus) and the Robust Ghostpipefish (Solenostomus cyanopterus) larvae at day 1

From Advanced Aquarist

On 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition, biologists from the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences collected two species of Ghost pipefish, the Ornate Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus) and the Robust Ghostpipefish (Solenostomus cyanopterus). In June 2011 we reportedon the spawning and rearing attempts of the Ornate Ghostpipefish and were proud to get the larvae to day 7, after which we unfortunately lost the female due to the end of these fishes short lifespan. However, we did have a female Robust Ghost pipefish and decided to display her in the same tank as the male Ornate Ghost Pipefish, and though we thought spawning between the two was possible we were surprised that courtship began on the very first day of co-habitation. It is unknown if these fish hybridize in the wild, and we are excited to present video of the first documentation of the hybridization.

We watched excitedly as the eggs that were held in the females fins began to develop eyes, and were even more excited to hatch the eggs and get the hybrid larvae to day 22 using different methodology than was used on the Ornate Ghostpipefish larvae.   Currently, the female Robust is carrying more eggs fertilized by the male Ornate Ghost Pipefish, and Steinhart Staff is looking forward to another oppurtunity to raise another batch of hybrid larvae.

From Reefs.com

Larval damselfish from eggs laid in the Steinhart Aquarium's Philippine Coral Reef exhibit. These will be sent to the University of Florida's Tropical Aquaculture Lab as part of the Rising Tide Conservation project. The lines in the top left are millimeters.

This week Amblyglyphidodon ternatensis eggs and larvae collected at the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences were shipped to Florida as part of the Rising Tide Conservation project.

Rising Tide Conservation was started by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment to make breeding and rearing of marine tropical fish economically viable so that there are alternatives to collection. It quickly expanded from a program focused on breeding and rearing fish in display facilities to one focused on integrating efforts of display aquaria, the hobbyist industry, and academia to create a platform for the promotion and dissemination of information related to marine tropical fish aquaculture. Large scale tropical marine fish aquaculture has been held back by four specific hurdles: difficulty in egg production, difficulty in larval rearing, use and production of an appropriate live feed, and most importantly, the difficulty in clearing these hurdles in an economically viable manner. Transfer of capabilities identified in this program to commercial producers is critical for the success of this initiative.

Rising Tide Conservation is an effort to reduce commercial collecting of reef fish by promoting captive breeding. This program provides a lifeline for reef populations by providing source alternatives. Many attempts to raise marine tropical fish have resulted in small successes. Rising Tide is an effort to move these advances to more widespread use.

For more images of the eggs and larvae please scroll down.

 

Amblyglyphidodon ternatensis eggs on Acropora. The adult fish lay their eggs on areas of Acropora skeleton that they strip of flesh. This fragment and eggs were collected in California and shipped to Florida as part of the Rising Tide Initiative.

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Text by Matt Wandell, Video by Rich Ross – Posted Jun 20, 2011 04:00 PM on Advanced Aquarist’s blog
Since our last update we’ve been able to observe mating several times, and Academy biologist Rich Ross has captured it on video.

Ornate Ghost Pipefish spawning and ‘birthing’ at the California Academy of Sciences, June 2011.

As reported earlier on Advanced Aquarist, the California Academy of Sciences’ Steinhart Aquarium has a pair of Ornate Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus) on display which have released larvae in captivity. Since our last update we’ve been able to observe mating several times, and Academy biologist Rich Ross has captured it on video.

Check out the video below to see the entire process of ghost pipefish reproduction–from mating, to a close up look inside the female’s pelvic fins where she holds the developing eggs, to larval release. So far we have seen the female release between 20-50 larvae every morning for the last 8 days, followed by mating with the male as soon as we place them back together. Is this typical behavior for the species, or an artifact of captivity? Does she hold eggs and larvae of different age in her pelvic fins at the same time in the wild?

Before you go rushing out to obtain a ghost pipefish or two, you should be aware that the vast majority of these amazing animals collected for the aquarium trade die before ever reaching their intended destination. Those that do make it are often extremely weak from the journey. The individuals described here were carefully collected and shipped by Steinhart Aquarium staff from a shallow seagrass bed in a small Philippine bay to a display tank in San Francisco within less than 36 hours. Along the journey, they received several water changes and were always held in enormous containers. It is our firm belief that this extraordinary level of care during shipping is necessary for these fishes to arrive alive and in good health.

From Reefbuilders

One of the advantages of working at the the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences has is being able to care for, and observe so many different animals that we might not be exposed to anywhere but a public aquarium. For instance, we display not one, but two Rhinopias Scorpion fish. These venomous fish are not overly abundant in the industry or the wild, and they don’t have the best track record in captivity, often living for less than two years and then dying mysteriously. We thought very hard before committing to putting them on display, and decided we would give it a go when two of them, a Rhinopias eschmeyeri and a Rhinopias frondosa (though there is some debate as to their being different species), became available last November. Since going on display they have been eating well, shedding regularly (normal behavior) and challenging guests to spot them among the corals.Even though we have been thrilled at our success with these fish so far, we never expected to find what we found in the tank a week and a half ago – an egg raft. The eggs were hard to spot, being almost completely clear, and they may mimic a comb jelly to prevent predation. Apparently these are the first Rhinopias eggs that have been laid in captivity. We assumed the eggs were infertile, but were surprised to see development on the day after discovery, and even more surprised when they hatched. At the time of writing, we have collected two batches of eggs and larvae are still alive after 8 days. It has been amazing to watch the larvae develop through the microscope, growing fins, a mouth and a gut where none existed before.Raising larval marine fish is tough, so every day they survive we are thrilled, and, though we aren’t done with this batch yet, we hope that we can build on this experience so that if more eggs are produced we have a better chance of getting them through the larval stage. Special thanks to Matt Wandell, Matt Pederson, Frank Marini, Andrew Berry, Gresham Hendee and Reef Nutrition for their support and advice through this ongoing process.

From Reefhobbyst Magazine