LEGENDS OF THE SEA: SEAHORSES
Throughout the history, seahorses have become the subject of mythology and legends due to their unusual shape and swimming behavior. Their habitat includes the shallow coastal regions of temperate, sub-tropical and tropical seas. They live as long-lasting, monogamist and loyal couples due to the weak chances and difficulty of finding another mate by their slow swimming over vast areas. There are two types of seahorses inhabiting Turkey's coastal areas; Hippocampus Hippocampus and Hippocampus Ramulosus. Their mating season is between April and October, during which the female lay her eggs in the males pouch. The male carries the eggs in his pouch providing protection, aeration, food and a safe environment for hatching. Then the young seahorses come out of the males pouch, well fed and able to swim, thus having a greater chance to run away from predators.
Today, seahorses are under the threat of extinction worldwide due to their unusual shape, behavior and cuteness. According to the ancient far eastern medicine, it is believed that the seahorses cure baldness, increase sexual drive and cure many other ailments. (Modern science does not agree on this). Their unusual shape and their cuteness contribute to their worldwide destruction. Their dried bodies are used as ornaments and decoration. (Human Beings strange nature manifests itself here; to use the dried body of an animal he/she likes as a decoration, therefore resulting in the destruction of the species) The worldwide growing market demand for the seahorses lead to their over-fishing and thus rapidly detoriating numbers. Unlawful and unfair fishing methods such as drift nets, trawlers, dynamites, cyanide poisoning, and habitat loss as a result of landfills on the shore, loss of sea weeds, pollution, violent storms (El Nino) contribute to their extinction.
All of the photographs below were taken in the Aegean Sea.
Needle Fish ; Master of stealth and camouflage; they belong to the same family (Syngnathidae) as seahorses.
For me, it had been difficult to photograph the seahorses due to their shyness. Normally fishes and and other creatures flee when a massive camera approaches them. But the first reaction of the seahorses is to turn their backs on you.. Therefore you become obliged to spiral and turn around continuously if you wanted a head on photo. My erratic and strange swimming behavior attracted the attention of a nearby school of jacks. Unable to focus my attention to them, I had to concentrate my efforts to the very rare hippocampus ramulosus I had hardly found. Encouraged by my lack of interest, they formed a very tight spinning circle around me, literally a turning wall of fish. What I felt then as a diver, maybe you can understand, but words fail me to explain you what I felt as an underwater photographer...
During a Seahorse Shootout. One of the Curious Jacks
Photo by: Birkan Babakol