Tag Archives: Coral reef

Fun Facts About Sea Horses

Standard

Sea horses are classified in the family Syngnathidae (pronounced sin-NATH-ih-dee). Every animal in this family is a fish. Syngnathdae is Greek for ‘fused jaws’ because the mouths of fish in this family do not open or close. About 330 species of Syngnathidae have been classified. Thirty-seven of these species are sea horses, three are sea dragons (Leafy, Weedy, and Ribboned), and the rest are pipehorses or pipefishes.*

Where do sea horses live?
Most sea horses live in shallow ocean water near land. Sea horses may be found in estuaries, mangrove swamps, sea grass meadows, or reefs around the world.

Why do sea horses hide?
Larger fish like tuna or red snapper eat sea horses. Sea turtles, sting rays, sharks and even penguins munch on sea horses, too. Sea horses hide from these predators by changing color to match their environment.

How do sea horses move?
Sea horses move slowly by means of fins that beat as fast as 70 times per second! The dorsal fin propels the sea horse forwards. Sea horses have two, small pectoral fins (one behind each gill) that allow the sea horse to hover or change direction.

Sea Horse Diagram

Sea Horse Diagram by Tammy Carter Bronson

What do sea horses eat?
Sea horses do not have teeth, so they swallow their food whole. Sea horses suck food into their long, narrow snout, but the food must be tiny to fit through their mouth. Sea horses eat zooplankton, little shrimp, and the larvae of fish, crab, or worms. Sea horses do not have stomachs either. Without a stomach, sea horses cannot digest food well, so they have to eat large amounts in order to survive. Sea horses may eat for up to 10 hours per day, and they may swallow 50 to 300 tiny animals per hour!

What is the largest sea horse?
The Big-Bellied Sea Horse (Hippocampus abdominalis) is the largest species. These sea horses may reach fourteen inches in length!

What is the smallest sea horse?
Hippocampus denise is a pygmy sea horse that measures about half an inch in length.

More About Sea Horses…

Sea Horses and Corals

Sea Horse Diagram for the Classroom

Draw and Color a Sea Horse with a Dot-to-Dot Activity

*My Favorite References…

Seahorses, Pipefishes and Their Relatives: A Comprehensive Guide to Syngnathiformes. 
Author Rudie H. Kuiter. TMC Publishing, Chorleywood, UK. Revised 2003.

Poseidon’s Steed: The Story of Seahorses, From Myth to Reality. 
Author Helen Scales, Ph.D. Gothan Books, New York, NY, USA.  ©2009.

Project Seahorse.
Author Pamela S. Turner. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, New York, NY, USA. ©2010.

Visit Project Sea Horse Online.

Advertisements

Rewriting the End in “Sea Horse, run!”

Standard

Someone asked me today, “How do you know when you are finished rewriting?” A great question! I’ve found that just when I think my story can’t possibly be any better, someone will give me a nudge in a different direction and, “Voilà!” A better book is born.

The key to knowing whether or not you are finished rewriting is to test your story with your audience. Of course a picture book should be tested on children, but usually every child will like your story. In addition to kids, seek out a dozen or more teachers, librarians, and parents. Ask your adult readers to give you feedback. Granted, sometimes it’s hard to get an honest response. Most readers want to say, “That’s great! I love your story,” or “Good job!”  That isn’t necessarily what you want to hear. You want readers to be as critical as possible. If there are major flaws with your story, you have to know BEFORE you publish it. That’s why you test it with so many people. Out of a dozen readers, one or two will be brutally honest, but their feedback could mean the difference between an “okay” book or a “great” book.

I speak from experience. My new picture book, “Sea Horse, run!”, went through eighteen rewrites over the course of a year. I thought the story was finished, but when I was looking for feedback on the art (only weeks before the book went to press), one librarian spoke up and said,

“I don’t like the end of your story.”

Ribbon

In that version (the 18th draft), Sea Horse, Coral and Sea Dragon laugh at the Shark, Eel and Octopus for not realizing the “Sea Dragon” was only a harmless, Leafy Dragon. This concerned parent/librarian pointed out how inappropriate my ending was for children. I listened and realized that I needed another revision. I was mortified. At least a dozen other people had told me they liked the book. Should I really rewrite it AGAIN based on the feedback of one person? The answer is, “Absolutely!” Why not write it one more time? After all, as a writer, you can always go back to the old version. It never hurts to write your story from a different angle or with an alternate ending. You may like the new version better. That’s exactly what happened for “Sea Horse, run!”.  With only a few weeks left before the book went to the printer, I took the story apart, piece by piece, desperately seeking the perfect finale.


The ending came to me as I studied the art. Since the book takes place on a coral reef, I drew a variety of fish for the background. One fish was the ribboned sea dragon. I asked myself, “Why is Leafy Dragon coming to the reef in the first place?” Answer: “To visit his cousin, Ribbon.” I not only revised the story, I revised ALL of the art by hiding Ribbon in every picture so that in the end, Sea Horse realizes that a sea dragon lived on the reef all along. The new ending increased the story to 849 words, a real drawback since I was committed to keeping it under 800, but the story improved so much, I decided not to worry about the length.

The revelation that there were three sea dragons instead of one made for a better ending, and it was far more appropriate for children. The new ending also allowed me to put three sets of “three” in the book, a nice touch since the number three is so important in children’s literature. (Read my previous blog post, “The Power of Three in Children’s Books.”) Although it was an enormous challenge to revise my “final” draft,” the extra effort was well worth it. When I tested the book on readers again, they were more enthusiastic than ever. I knew the 19th version would be the last, and a character that began as just another fish in the background took on a much larger role. In retrospect, I’m fairly certain that final revision helped transform “Sea Horse, run!” into an award-winning book.

Want to know more about ribboned sea dragons? Read my blog post entitled, “Ribbon,” or watch the video below. Remember: Don’t be afraid to REVISE!!!

Bubble Coral

Standard

Photo by Tammy Carter Bronson, October 2010

The common name ‘Bubble Coral’ may bring to mind an image of a soft, pliable animal, but bubble coral is actually a reef-builder known as a true, hard coral. The polyps or tiny animals that make up this colony have twelve or more legs. Bubble corals are often found in deep water near the base of a reef which is why specimens in aquariums require a gentle water current and low light. The coral skeleton is protected during the day by the inflatable ‘bubbles.’ At night the bubbles retract allowing the tentacles to emerge and hunt for food. This coral can be aggressive. If threatened by another coral, the tentacles will sting and kill its rival. Bubble corals are native to the Indo-Pacific region including the waters around Australia, the Indian Ocean, and Red Sea. Captive specimens are fairly hardy and relatively easy to care for. Combine this with it’s intriguing appearance, and its no wonder bubble corals are popular in aquariums.

More Information:

How to Keep Bubble Coral

Bubble Coral

Art © 2011 by Tammy Carter Bronson

Click on a question or link below to learn more about corals:

What is a coral polyp?

How do polyps eat?

Do coral polyps have eyes?

Why are corals important to sea horses?

How are corals named?
This page includes a complete chart of every coral in “Sea Horse, run!”. The chart shows how corals are classified in relation to one another. An individual coral may have more than one common name.

Additional Names for Bubble Coral include Grape Coral and Pearl Coral.

Brain Coral

Standard

Brain Coral is a hard, reef-building coral.

Brain CoralClick on a question or link below to learn more about corals:

What is a coral polyp?

How do polyps eat?

Why are corals important to sea horses?

Do coral polyps have eyes?

How are corals named?
(This page includes a complete chart of every coral in “SEA HORSE, RUN!”. The chart shows how corals are classified in relation to one another.)

Corals and Sea Horses

Standard

Why are corals important to sea horses?

Many species of sea horses are entirely dependent on their coral environment for protection. Sea horses can change their color and texture to mimic the corals they are attached to which means the corals provide the perfect hiding place from predators. Since corals often protect sea horses, I thought it would be a nice reversal in “SEA HORSE, RUN!” to have my hero, Sea Horse, protecting his best friend, Coral.

Sea Horse & Coral

Sea Horse looks yellow like his best friend, Coral.

Also, many species of coral and even some coral reefs are endangered around the world, so it was easy to imagine Coral needed to be protected in the story. But protected from what? That was the hard part. I knew the danger needed to be concrete for young readers, so I chose a sea dragon because the word ‘dragon’ definitely excites the imagination!

Sea Horse and Sea Dragon

Sea Horse and Leafy. Leafy is a sea dragon!

Click on a question or link below to learn more about corals:

What is a coral polyp?

How do polyps eat?

How are corals named?

Why are corals important to sea horses?

Do coral polyps have eyes?

Coral Polyps

Standard

What is a coral polyp?

Corals

Polyps are tiny animals. Hard tree corals exist in a variety of colors. The sea anemone is a soft coral.

A polyp is an animal. Most polyps are tiny and live in clusters called ‘colonies.’ Polyps may have hard or soft skeletons. Of the 2,400 living species of corals worldwide, two-thirds of the known coral species have soft skeletons, while one-third of the species have hard skeletons. The type of polyp determines the size and shape of the colony. Some colonies look like “trees” while another colony may look like a brain!

Soft Tree Corals      Brain Coral
Soft Coral Polyps

Polyps have tentacles that extend at night in order to feed. Polyps also have a mouth, throat and stomach.

Most soft coral polyps only have eight legs (except sea anemones) whereas other polyps have twelve, eighteen or even twenty-four legs. Colonies of soft corals include: soft tree corals, sea pens, sea whips, sea fans, and sea anemones.

Sea Whip Coral     Sea Fan Coral

Hard Coral Polyps

Hard coral polyps have tentacles, a mouth, throat, and stomach, but unlike soft polyps, the hard polyps also have a base made of limestone.


When polyps with hard skeletons die, their tiny bones create a rock called ‘limestone.’ Coral reefs are made of limestone or the crushed bones of many, many millions of hard polyps! Reef-building corals include: Mushroom Coral, Staghorn Coral, Brain Coral, Bubble Coral, Chalice or Lettace Coral, and Tree or Tube Coral.

Some polyps live alone. The Mushroom Coral is a large, single polyp.

Mushroom Coral     Bubble Coral

Click on a question or link below to learn more about corals:

What is a coral polyp?

How do polyps eat?

How are corals named?

Why are corals important to sea horses?

Do coral polyps have eyes?