Dozens of rare baby seahorses have been born at an aquarium.
Delighted staff at Tynemouth’s Blue Reef Aquarium have welcomed the newest additions just before Christmas.
The youngsters, which measure less than a centimetre in length, are known as spotted seahorses and will eventually grow to a height of nearly 20cms.
The new arrivals are the latest successes in the aquarium’s ongoing captive breeding programme for these graceful and seriously endangered creatures.
Displays supervisor Terry McKeone said: “The babies are doing extremely well and it’s more than likely there will be more born over the coming days.
“Although tiny, the newborns are exact miniature replicas of their parents and are already learning and mimicking the adults’ behaviour.
“Successful captive breeding programmes like this are important because they can ease the pressures on wild populations.”
The seahorse is unique in the animal kingdom in that it is the male rather than the female which carries the babies and gives birth to them via a special brood pouch on their stomach.
The female seahorse lays her eggs in the male’s pouch. He then fertilises them and incubates them until they’re ready to emerge into the great outdoors.
Found throughout south east Asia, Australia, Japan and Hawaii the spotted seahorse is officially listed as vulnerable in the IUCN red list of threatened species.
In the wild virtually all of the approximate 35 species of seahorse are now under threat from a variety of sources.
These include loss of habitat, pollution, the souvenir trade and traditional Far East medicine - believed to account for the deaths of more than 20 million seahorses annually.