Deep sea treasure in the Thames

13 April 2008


How could I resist talking about a story that hit the headlines this week - the discovery that there are seahorses living in the busy waters of the Thames Estuary in London.

Seahorse - Hippocampus sp.Over the past 18 months, researchers from the Zoological Society of London have encountered a population of short snouted seahorses (Hippocampus hippomcampus) - tiny creatures that could lie on the palm of your hand.

They have been seen as far east as Dagenham where the tides are still strong to bring salty water in, since seahorses don't live in freshwater.

Seahorses have occasionally been spotted in the Thames in the past but only one or two, and never such a healthy population.

The really good news is that these seahorses, along with another British species, the long snouted seahorse (Hippocampus guttulatus) are now protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside act, which means it is illegal to take them from the wild and to damage their wild habitats.

Like the arrival of the whale in the Thames a few years ago, Londoners are proud of their newest aquatic neighbours, and it's a good sign that despite its notoriously mucky and polluted history, the waters of the Thames are much cleaner than they used to be and it is now one of the cleanest big rivers in Europe, home also to porpoises, seals and otters.

Although it could also be that waters are warmer than they use to be with global warming, making them more hospitable to these species that are more normally found further south in the Mediterranean.


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