Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery - July 2016

Seahorses: a hidden gem

Collection of seahorses

July's Object of the Month July’s Object of the Month has been chosen by our work experience student Abi Carpenter. Abi spent a week working with us, learning about all the different aspects of museum life. The objects she chose are a hidden gem from the museum’s stores.

In a drawer that is rarely opened four dried seahorses from our collection were discovered. They are very light and delicate, measuring only a few centimetres long. Their skin has a leathery feel and has gone a murky brown colour. There are various types of seahorses around the world. Unfortunately these sea horses were not classified when accessioned into the collection. Abi carried out some research into what type of species these seahorses could be. Her best guess after reading about the different common characteristics is that they could be ‘Flat-faced seahorses’ or ‘Pacific seahorses’. These classes of seahorse are from the Syngnathidae family, and are both under threat from habitat loss.

The Pacific seahorse - can be found in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico and the United States. Its natural habitat is coral reefs.
The flat-faced seahorse - can be found in Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand. Its natural habitat is shallow seas.

Abi chose to write her article on these seahorses because she was interested by the maritime theme. She realised that in the ‘Fur, Feathers and Flints’ gallery the museum displays taxidermy, archaeology and mineral specimens, but there were not many sea creatures on display.  This article on the seahorses helps to show the public some of the treasures in the museum collection that are not currently on display.

Abi says: I wanted to do this article on the seahorses because I love, and have always been fascinated, by taxidermy and fossilised remains. It enables me to get up close with the creatures and animals that I would not have been able to when they were still alive. Also, if we have a small animal or a footprint from an animal, it can show us and give us information about the lives that they lived and the places where they lived. We can find this out by looking at the skin or scales of the animal (if they are damaged we could say that they have been in a fight or the environment around them was harsh).

We can also look at the fur on them (if they have any) to see what type of species of animal it is or what type of atmosphere they lived in  (if they had no coat or a thin coat then it could have been a warm/hot atmosphere etc.).I also wanted to do the seahorses for the ‘object of the month’ article because when I saw them I was so amazed. I also realised that the only place that we are able to easily see seahorses are in aquariums and zoos, so being able to hold them and examine them up close was an amazing experience.

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