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Newport Aquarium Exhibit Highlights A Different Kind of 'Horse'

Tana Weingartner
Big Bellied Seahorses like these two are found in the southwest Pacific waters of New Zealand and Austrailia.

Being in the Commonwealth, Ric Urban says the newest exhibit at the Newport Aquarium just makes sense.

"Everything about Kentucky is horses, and now we have seahorses on display, with their relatives, in "Seahorses: Unbridled Fun," says the chief conservation officer.Seahorses have long been popular in drawings and cartoons, but they can be hard to find in the wild because of how well they blend into their surroundings. The new exhibit allows visitors to see the creatures up close. It includes ten species of seahorses, sea dragons, trumpetfish, razorfish and pipefish.

Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
Unlike its cousin the seahorse, the Weedy Sea Dragon's long, thin tail can't be used for gripping.

Seahorses and their relatives live in coastal ecosystems like coral reefs and sea grass beds. Urban says those habitats around the world are under threat.

Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
Can you spot the seahorses hiding among the coral?

"The fishing industry is one of those big threats. The trolling nets are dropped and they scrape through the sea grass meadows, they scrape by the coral reefs, and they take everything. Then they pull out what they want to sell and then either dump the rest overboard or turn the rest of the 'collateral damage' into fertilizer."

The Aquarium's exhibit seeks to show visitors what they can do to help protect seahorse habitats.


Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
These large seahorse sculptures are used to illustrate a seahorse's various physical characteristics.

The Aquarium is billing the exhibit as "the most interactive seahorse exhibit in the country." While you can't touch the actual fish, there are large-scale models you can touch and examine to learn about different seahorse characteristics. These include their prehensile tails, independently mobile eyeballs and dorsal fins. Videos explain other unique attributes, such as how the males are the ones who give birth.

Visitors can also design their own seahorse or sea dragon, picking colors, fins, etc. that will be displayed on a giant screen in the exhibit and emailed home along with coloring sheets for later.

Credit Newport Aquarium
Visitors can create their own seahorse or sea dragon, like this one created by WVXU's Tana Weingartner with help from Chief Conservation Officer Ric Urban.