CHICAGO, April 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Come see and believe! Shedd Aquarium's new special exhibit Seahorse Symphony, sponsored by Bank of America, is the world's largest collection of seahorses and their relatives. Visitors will see creatures so mystical and unusual that many people believe they only exist in legends, myths and folklore. They're real, they need our help, and they're only at Shedd Aquarium beginning Mother's Day, May 10. Celebrate Mother's Day with us and learn about an unusual characteristic of seahorse "mothers" -- the male seahorse actually gets pregnant and gives birth! There's one in every family... Seahorses and their relatives -- seadragons, pipefishes, ghost pipefishes, shrimpfishes, snipefishes, trumpetfishes and cornetfishes -- make up the order Syngnathiformes (sing-NATH-ih-forms). Together, these animals form what scientists call the "fused jaw" fishes. Like the varied instruments in a symphony orchestra, Seahorse Symphony members don't all look the same. These fishes differ in shape and appearance, but several characteristics are alike: * long, tube-shaped snouts * armored bodies and delicate fins * protective camouflage Seahorses, pipefish and seadragons also share another unusual trait. The male becomes pregnant! The female produces the eggs and deposits them in a pouch or directly on her mate's underside. After fertilizing the eggs, the male carries and protects the developing young. He provides them with oxygen and nourishment, and after several weeks the young burst forth as miniature replicas of their parents. These elusive fish swim in the shallow waters of the world's oceans: in seagrass meadows, around coral reefs, in mangrove forests and in floating beds of seaweed. They live along coasts all around the world, except in polar waters. A few pipefish species even inhabit freshwater streams. Unusual traits...but a common problem These beautiful fishes are in trouble and they need your help! It is estimated that each year more than 20 million seahorses are taken from the wild to be used in medicines, as pets and as souvenirs. More than 40 countries, including the United States, are involved in the trade of seahorses. How many seahorses exist in the wild? No one knows for sure, but seahorse fishers are reporting declining catches in recent years. Human population growth and too much consumption around the world means that many resources, including seahorses, are being overused. As the size of the seahorse population spirals downward, people must help if seahorses are to survive. "The earth's oceanic ecosystem is a fascinating, yet fragile thing," said William M. Goodyear, chairman of Bank of America's Illinois operations and head of the Global Private Bank. "By helping to preserve this underwater habitat, we not only help the creatures that live within it, but the future generations who can learn so much from studying it. Bank of America is proud to be the corporate sponsor of Seahorse Symphony." At Shedd Aquarium, we are financially helping to support an international effort called Project Seahorse. Project Seahorse is a group committed to conserving seahorse populations while recognizing the needs of people who depend on them -- a critical environmental concept called "sustainable use." Led by biologist Dr. Amanda Vincent of McGill University in Canada with Dr. Heather Hall of the Zoological Society of London, Project Seahorse brings scientists and seahorse users together to come up with a variety of solutions including: * field conservation--community based initiatives in the Philippines and Vietnam * trade adjustment--documenting and influencing trade globally * biological research--seahorse ecology, reproduction, taxonomy, disease * ex-situ keeping and culturing--coordination of husbandry and breeding methods in aquaria and application to small-scale aquaculture Shedd Aquarium supports Project Seahorse's work in community education programs for Philippine villagers through a grant from the Dr. Scholl Foundation. It's not too late! Working together to support projects like these, we can make a difference. Visit Shedd Aquarium this summer and see some of the ocean's most amazing creatures and learn what you can do to help. For more information about Seahorse Symphony and other Shedd Aquarium events, please call 312-939-2438. Advance tickets are recommended. Advance tickets can be purchased at Shedd Aquarium's front entrance from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week. Tickets also can be purchased from Charge-by-Phone at 312-559-0200. Tickets are $11 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors. Members are free. Children ages 2 and under are free. Admission price includes Aquarium, Oceanarium and Seahorse Symphony special exhibit. Bank of America serves the Midwest through its Chicago headquarters, employing more than 3,500 people locally, and 93,000 internationally. It is the fifth largest bank holding company in the United States with more than $260.2 billion in assets. Shedd Aquarium is supported by the people of Chicago through the Chicago Park District. Project Seahorse -- Fact Sheet With more than 20 million seahorses being taken from the wild each year, seahorse populations are on a downward spiral. These animals are mostly being used for medicinal purposes and in the pet and souvenir trades. Over the past 10 years, seahorse fishers have reported declining catches and smaller specimens. At this rate, many seahorse populations are likely to be in trouble. Around the world, some of the poorest people depend on fishing seahorses as their main source of income. Rather than take a "just say no" approach to fishing seahorses, the challenge is to balance the needs of seahorses and the people who depend on them for their livelihoods and medicines. At Shedd Aquarium, we are helping to support an international effort called Project Seahorse. Project Seahorse is a group committed to conserving seahorse populations while recognizing the needs of people who use them-a critical environmental concept called "sustainable use." Led by biologist Dr. Amanda Vincent of McGill University in Canada with Dr. Heather Hall of the Zoological Society of London, Project Seahorse brings scientists and seahorse users together to come up with a variety of creative solutions including: * field conservation-community-based initiatives in the Philippines and Vietnam * trade adjustment--documenting and influencing trade globally * biological research--seahorse ecology, reproduction, taxonomy, disease * ex-situ keeping and culturing--coordination of husbandry and breeding methods in aquaria and application to small-scale aquaculture There have been many significant achievements thanks to Project Seahorse. Through field interviews and worldwide correspondence, Project Seahorse gathers data on seahorse trade, including volume, prices and trade routes. This information helps to focus conservation efforts and work for measures to protect seahorses. Customs authorities also are encouraged to get involved. Partly through the efforts of Project Seahorse, the European Union and Hong Kong now monitor seahorse trade, and Australia requires export permits for seahorses. In the Philippines, Project Seahorse encourages and assists local people in setting up and guarding marine preserves. In these protected areas, seahorses and other marine animals are safe from overfishing and habitat damage. When the protected populations become dense enough, fishes leave the reserves. This overflow provides more fishes for fishers to catch -- an important reason why they protect the reserves and a great example of how people and animals can co-exist. The team also helps manage the seahorse fishery more wisely, promotes village self-management, trains local youth as conservation apprentices and helps develop ways to earn income without overfishing. Project Seahorse also is working with Vietnam's Institute of Oceanography to develop small-scale seahorse farms. The goal is to help seahorse fishers become seahorse farmers, thereby reducing wild seahorse fishing. But we must be careful that farming seahorses does not increase the demand for seahorses, thus encouraging larger takes from wild populations. The balance is very delicate -- like the creatures themselves. Shedd Aquarium continues to support the work of Project Seahorse financially through our Aquatic Science Grants and by furthering public education through the new special exhibit Seahorse Symphony. There is a great deal to learn about the husbandry and biology of these unique fish. By working together with biologists, conservationists and other scientists; by teaching our guests about seahorses and by supporting international conservation efforts, Shedd Aquarium is helping Project Seahorse make a difference.
SOURCE Shedd Aquarium