International Journal of Applied Science and Technology

ISSN 2221-0997 (Print), 2221-1004 (Online) 10.30845/ijast

Incorporating Captive Animal Behavior into the Conservation of Threatened Species, Hippocampus ingens
Dominique T. Richardson, Paul J. Narguizian

Reintroduction, bolstering wild populations of threatened species with captive-raised animals, is a potential way to aid vulnerable seahorses. Previous reintroductions, including those of other organisms, have not always been successful, as captive animals do not have the same behaviors as their wild counterparts. Although they are naturally ambush predators, captive seahorses are promptly weaned onto a dead food diet due to the high cost of live food. To determine if the weaning process affects the behavior and food preference of a potential reintroduction species, we recorded and analyzed the behavior of Hippocampus ingens, raised at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (CMA), when feeding on live and dead foods. These post-weaned seahorses prefer dead food (p<0.001) and their feeding behavior is significantly altered by the weaning process: they act as scavengers instead of ambush predators. This discrepancy in behavior can directly affect the survival of the seahorses upon reintroduction and possibly change their ecological niche. This work will help prepare reintroduction animals both for survival and to fulfill their ecological role, ensuring the long-term success of conservation efforts.

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