We investigated the density and size structure of the endangered Knysna seahorse Hippocampus capensis in the macroalga Codium tenue at three sites in a residential marina estate in the Knysna Estuary, South Africa, over an 18 month period from March 2017 to August 2018. Seahorses were present in C. tenue throughout the year. Average (± SE) densities of 0.33 (± 0.03) and 0.23 (± 0.03) seahorses per kg of C. tenue were found for 2017 and 2018 respectively. Density did not vary across sites but varied significantly across months with a decreasing trend from summer to spring. The average (± SE) adult seahorse height was 75.16 mm (± 0.63 mm) and 69.09 mm (± 0.64 mm) and mass was 2.05 g (± 0.04 g) and 1.65 g (± 0.04 g) for males and females, respectively, and an even sex ratio was observed throughout the sampling period. Height varied across months, with significantly smaller seahorses found in June and August of 2017. Tail length was highly correlated with height and therefore can serve as a potential proxy for determining the height of H. capensis. This study showed that C. tenue is consistently utilised by Knysna seahorse and should therefore be considered an important habitat to protect and facilitate the ongoing conservation of this endangered seahorse species.
Keywords: Hippocampus capensis; Knysna estuary; Syngnathidae; marina; population density; population structure.
© 2019 The Fisheries Society of the British Isles.