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Friday Discussion - Hybrids

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  • Offline TamiW
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Friday Discussion - Hybrids

« posted: 4 years ago »
So this is sort of a continuation of last weeks discussion here: http://seahorsetalk.fusedjaw.com/index.php/topic,168.msg844.html

How do you feel about hybrid seahorses? Do you think it's okay to intentionally create hybrids? A good thing? A bad thing? Are there any benefits to hybrids?

My feeling is that I don't think it's a bad thing, but I think it has to be done carefully, and sold fully disclosing they are hybrids. I do think it's better to keep species together because there is a long history of fish species getting hybridized to the point that it's not possible or very difficult to get the true species anymore. So at the very least, I think if people are creating hybrids, they should make a point to ensure they also have true species breeding together as well, and label them clearly.

Also, do we get to name the new crosses like dogs i.e. puggles and schnoodles? What would an H. erectus H. reidi cross be? A brazilian lined eating machine?
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  • Offline mosquared
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Re: Friday Discussion - Hybrids

« Reply #1 posted: 4 years ago »
I believe that with where we are right now with the limited amount of breeders and knowledge we have, any sort of breeding is needed. So that perhaps in a decade, the sickly Kuda's that we still find today stop their import into our country.

But there are other benefits of this as well. Hobbyist bouncing off ideas of rearing babies and increasing the chances of the species spread throughout the US.

And lastly, with the recent Reidi X Erectus batch that has shown up, its provided a chance for us to see the benefits of hybridization. The bigger harder fry of an erectus, but then also getting colors from the reidi species.

When purchasing directly from breeder this is fairly easy to trace back to the parent species. But once a wholesaler becomes part of this, it can cause problems. Some problems that I've run into is whether or not my Reidi that I just purchased is the hybrid or pure. The LFS followed up with the wholesaler who stands by the fact that they are selling pure bred CB Reidi, from South America. Some of the ones I've seen have the looks of the hybrid, the others don't.

So in the end it can get rather messy. Does the wholesaler know that they are hybrid, but is selling them as pure reidi to fetch a higher price? Are they true pure Reidi? Or perhaps their holding tank has both hybrids and pure reidi and as the seahorses are exchanging hands no one even things of separating the hybrid from the pure?
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  • Offline CHarris
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Re: Friday Discussion - Hybrids

« Reply #2 posted: 4 years ago »
Intentional hybridisation I gotta say I disagree with ...... On a moral and ethical level. They would never stay within the hobby trade, they would make their way into the commercial trade and lets face it your LFS rarely knows what type of Seahorses they are selling, so they definately would not be able to inform you whether they were hybrids or not! Before you know it we would just end up with a ton of mongrels on the market and if they were fertile where would the hybridisation end! You'd never know the origins of a particular seahorse after the generations have been mixed several times ...... I understand the argument that crossing them would possibly make them hardier, as with most creatures that are not purebreds, but just because something can be done doesn't necessarily mean it should be done ..... It's a slippery slope IMO
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  • Offline DonnaFromLA
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Re: Friday Discussion - Hybrids

« Reply #3 posted: 4 years ago »
I'm not a fan of hybrids for the same reason as CHaris. I think on the market, these hybrids are going to be sold as purebred's and that is where the trouble begins. Most people don't even know what they are buying to begin with, and the lfs 75% of the time has no clue the name of the seahorse they are purchasing either. I was even duped myself, not that I am an expert by far. I knew he wasn't selling me what he said it was, but I didn't know the name either. But when it come's to hybrid's I don't think they will ever disclose, much less even understand what they are. The normal fish buyer will not understand either. mosquared, I can understand what you are saying to as far as breeding out the bad stuff, but like a German Shepherd with a bad hip, in time you can breed these things out of the animal and they come back better then they were before. It's been a good 20 years or more and just the last few years am I seeing German Shepherd's back in the Streets. As far as these Labradoodle's and Maltipoo's go, that's out and out changing a breed, then why are they just not called Mutts? See what I'm getting at? Fix it or just make it a new breed? What is right, and what should it really be?
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Re: Friday Discussion - Hybrids

« Reply #4 posted: 4 years ago »
Hi,

I agree we should not do any mix breeding,for one thing you never know how these things will turn out,if they dont mix breed in the wild why would we do it .

We have sh because it is our hobby,not to make new breeds,when we have no idea how these thing will turn out,i know that i am repeating myself but i do think its something we should not mess with.
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  • Offline DanU
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Re: Friday Discussion - Hybrids

« Reply #5 posted: 4 years ago »
I donít know what the correct answer is.  Up to now, we have resisted cross breeding.  We have been given fry that were H. erectus/H.reidi hybrids on two occasions.  The first several years ago and my daughter, 14 y.o at the time, reared them.  The second was recently from a researcher. 

What I do know is that there is a demand on the market for them.  Just as we see with other fish that have deviated from their natural form, ie goldfish, clowns, etc.  In the first instance we sold out of them quickly without ever advertising them and at an elevated price.  The second instance, which we currently have are moving very quickly.

For the most part, vendors, both LFS and wholesalers, donít care what species they get or if they are properly identified.  What they want is what sells and makes a profit.  Many are interested in color or they order black because they are cheaper and sell them cheaper.  Go in any LFS and watch the customers, they will buy the most colorful specimens.  This even happens with educated hobbyist that know they will change color.    The majority could care less about species as they want a certain look.  The sincere knowledgeable hobbyist that wants a pure specific species,  are willing to do whatever it takes, go whatever lengths to keep them, is very much a minority.

There has been several instances where we have seen specimens that were imported to the US from Asian breeders that looked to be cross breeds.  This doesnít surprise me given the low tech way they are often bred there and the personnel doing the breeding. 

We donít know that they donít cross breed in the wild.  I suspect they do to some extent with some species.  A few years ago, a collector in Brazil was trying to move WC H. erectus and looking at the pictures they looked like an erectus/reidi hybrids.  These species overlap.  The current erectus/reidi that we have came from a tank with both H. erectus and H. reidi and they still cross bred.  Fortunately this has started some research on the subject.  As more DNA testing gets done on specimens from the wild we will learn more. 

Dogs make a good comparison.  Look at what we have today compared to their ancestor the wolf.  Many of the breeds today are the result of domestication and cross breeding.

CITES is changing the landscape with seahorses whether we like it not.  As with any law or regulation there are often unintended consequences.  For seahorses it is the extreme difficulty of procuring suitable brood stock.  The ideal breeding program will start with wild caught specimens and the breeder manages the breeding to prevent inbreeding.  Buying captive stock means that you donít know the lineage and how many times inbreeding has occurred.  Some will try to buy from different sources thinking they are getting different stock but that doesnít always work out either.  For example, we sell many more times wholesale than we do retail.  Our wholesale customers are LFS, online vendors and even other wholesalers and breeders.  So one could very easily order from different places and still get brother and sister.  Even when you do know the original source or breeder, you still donít know how much inbreeding has occurred or where they got their stock to start with.

I am a purist at heart!  My own personal preference is to maintain species in their original natural form and we have worked very hard and sacrificed to do so.  But this doesnít necessarily make them better pets.  I think there may be an argument that as a pet, some domestication and cross breeding may be beneficial.

Dan
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  • Offline TamiW
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Re: Friday Discussion - Hybrids

« Reply #6 posted: 4 years ago »
"Back in the day" before CITES, I would occasionally see seahorses that looked like H. reidi x H. erectus crosses too. I had a female I could never put squarely in H. reidi or H. erectus and I really think she was a mutt. So I think it does happen in the wild. Who knows why or what happens to them in the wild. Possibly they breed back into the population and have now added new genetic material to the species. The thing I always go back to is that species is an entirely human construct. We decide what makes a species, and our definition often changes. Meanwhile, animals don't care. There is usually some gene flow between closely related species if their ranges overlap.

The biggest problem though is being responsible about it. Even if the breeder is responsible and labels them correctly, who knows how well that will be maintained down the line and how diluted they will get. Then again, genetic testing is getting so cheap, it might be cheap and easy to order at home, making tracking mixes a moot point. It's $80 to DNA test your dog. It's a different thing of course, but as technology advances, so will access.
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Re: Friday Discussion - Hybrids

« Reply #7 posted: 4 years ago »
I honestly don't know how I feel about this.  I've always been a purist and against the idea of hybrids, but as the years go on and I learn more, I'm realizing that I need to be more open minded about things such as this.

I am going to go against the grain here though and say that I think hybrids are more acceptable if it has been done intentionally rather than unintentionally.  In these cases, I would like to hope that the broodstock have been carefully selected and conditioned rather than this just happening in a mixed tank where seahorses have been thrown together just because the breeder wanted a mixed tank.  This would mean that more healthy parents are likely to be used in the first place.

Perhaps the point of hybrid names in comparison to the cockapoo's and labradoodles of the dog world is a fairly good example of how I feel about this.  Many people will take two breeds (species) and mix them because they are creating a more exotic craze.  The dogs are still cross-breeds but giving them a proper pedigree sounding name means that people think they can charge more for them.  This doesn't mean that they have done the health tests to ensure that the ongoing generations will be strong and without health issues.  Although we can't do health testing on seahorses, there are things that we can do to ensure that they are as strong and healthy as they possibly can be.  So I guess it really comes down to the type of breeder who is breeding them.

I'm not sure that mixing species will automatically ensure a stronger seahorse when they are being kept in captivity.  In the wild, definitely, but where they are being hand fed and kept in a safe environment I'm not sure that we can guarantee that they will be hardier than pure species.
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Re: Friday Discussion - Hybrids

« Reply #8 posted: 4 years ago »
I know joining this discussion a little late.. However i would like to voice my opinion on this...

I think cross breading is neither good or bad.  However I do believe that it should be explored, because I hopeful that it could create a stronger species and with seahorse being on the verge of extinction.... This may.. again may be an answer...

No one can for sure know that this is not happening in the wild.. so if the goal is to save the species.. by creating another I'm for it.. but if the goal is profit driven.. then I'm concerned
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  • Offline TamiW
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Re: Friday Discussion - Hybrids

« Reply #9 posted: 4 years ago »
I know joining this discussion a little late.. However i would like to voice my opinion on this...

I think cross breading is neither good or bad.  However I do believe that it should be explored, because I hopeful that it could create a stronger species and with seahorse being on the verge of extinction.... This may.. again may be an answer...

No one can for sure know that this is not happening in the wild.. so if the goal is to save the species.. by creating another I'm for it.. but if the goal is profit driven.. then I'm concerned

It's never too late! :) I think this issue will probably become more relevant as time goes on and as we see more successful keeping and rearing.

Creating a hybrid for release into the wild is a sticky subject. It would really be only be something considered as a last resort if all species of seahorses had been wiped out and only hybrids were available. Even then, chances are anyone undertaking such a goal would likely try and breed back to an original type, at least phenotypically. And with genetic testing, you might be able to breed back to as close to the original genotype too. I know they have bred back to the orignal type with some fish, and have done it with horses as well, though I believe those were all phenotype changes, with no verification of genotype similarity.

The issue most of the time isn't preserving seahorses as a type of animal, but preserving each species. There are somewhere around 40-60 species (depending on whom you ask), and each one is adapted to various habitat and behavior. The lost of one couldn't easily be replaced by another, and we don't know what kind of impact a hybrid would have. It might out compete other populations.

The other problem would be that any seahorses raised in captivity will experience a form of natural selection for their environment - in this case, captivity. So you might have those selected for being indiscriminate in their food choices (because they're easier to feed), withstanding high bacteria loads (in even very clean setups, there is going to be more bacteria than in the ocean) and tolerating high population densities. Even if you don't mean to. Meanwhile some of those traits might be detrimental in the wild. For instance, a seahorse that is indiscriminate in what it eats might end up eating something like a fireworm. If they aren't protective of their territory, you might have problems with too many seahorses in a given area disrupting breeding attempts or even depopulating food in a given area.

The above wouldn't even need to be a hybrid to be problematic in the wild, though it certainly could be. Most attempts at creating a stronger species for the wild would be difficult if not impossible simply because there are so many factors that you would need to select for that can't be duplicated in captivity.

Now, having said that, a hybrid seahorse might be perfect for captivity. You might select for the traits that mean better captive survival. And if it's never going to be released again, then it shouldn't matter if its a hybrid. Releasing fish to repopulate an area is very tricky at best, and many groups oppose it unless the fish is completely extinct in that location with no chance to repopulate. This is partially for the reasons I mentioned and partially because disease that could be introduced from captive fish. So in theory, it shouldn't matter if captive seahorses are hybridized if they are stronger and survive better in home aquariums. It would be for profit, but that's why most captive ornamentals are raised, so I'm not sure it's all bad.

It's also important to think about natural selection in captivity. Because really, an H. erectus that has been in captivity a few generations is going to start being a different animal than the one still in the wild. The more generations that pass, the more adapted to captive conditions and mal-adapted to wild conditions. So at that point, does it matter that they're a hybrid or not?

It's interesting you said that no one knows if it's happening in the wild. We actually do know in some cases, and it's considered a risk for extinction, because one species might get absorbed into another. In particular, climate change has caused water to be warmer further from the equator, causing seahorses normally found in "tropical" waters to move into new territories. H. algiricus has been found breeding with H. hippocampus. Previously, their territories were separate, but H. algiricus has moved further north with warming temperatures, and are breeding with H. hippocampus. It's not clear if it's because there are fewer mates of the same species found, or if behaviorally they're similar enough and geography was the only thing stopping them from breeding before.

I had a female "H. reidi" a bunch of number of years ago (early aughts?) that I am sure was a H. erectus/H. reidi hybrid. She was wild caught so if my observation was right, she was a natural hybrid. And the thing we have to remember is that species is a human made construct. In all likelihood, hybrids play some role in genetic variation. The occasional outbreeding means new genes that could be beneficial. Or deleterious genes and the offspring quickly die out. It's also thought to be how some species come about. A major change in climate, habitat etc.. might cause two populations to merge, creating something different entirely. In a way it's good because the animal type lives. But it also means some unique species may no longer exist.

A couple interesting articles on the subject:
Hybrids May Thrive Where Parents Fear to Tread
Hybrid speciation(pdf)

Now, that being said, I much prefer natural species over hybrids - but thats really just because I prefer the crazy variety of species and the interesting traits they have. And as I mentioned above, there are some fish types so hybridized that it's almost (and sometimes actually) impossible to a non-hybridized specimen. African cichlids are particularly bad in the area of hybrids. To me, hybrids vs. natural species are like paint colors. If you mix all the colors together, you get a boring mud color.
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  • Offline Laurasea
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Re: Friday Discussion - Hybrids

« Reply #10 posted: 3 years ago »
I found this a very interesting topic. I am not a breeder and I don't intend to become one.  The stress and challenges of raising fry would be overwhelming to me.  For the breeders out there THANK YOU so much! Captive bred is the best! Our oceans thank you. 
But I know that pilot whales and dolphins in the wild have cross bred and they are even less related than seahorses, I also watched a special on blue whales that have cross bred with other whales.  Crossbreeding does occur in nature.  It may be a way to improve the vigor and health of a species.   In a captivate breeding scenario I think I would be for it.  If the end goal is to produce healthier stock, maintain genetic diversity, and improve the keeping of (domesticate? ) seahorses. Aslo the desire of people to have rare and beautiful seahorse will keep sellers harvesting them from the wild to fill the demand.  Perhaps with breeding more perceived   sexy colorful specimens could help?  As for some of the seahorses species that are more challenging to breed and raise fry, would introducing a species that would result in stronger fry, more easily raised, but maintain the characteristics of choice be a bad thing?  We aren't releasing these seahorses back into the wild. we are trying to have captive bred seahorse companions right?  Though I do agree with disclosure, and I do agree with maintaining pure lines as well.  As as member of the general public, I just want a happy healthy seahorse that is as easy to care for as possible, and not wildcaught.
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Re: Friday Discussion - Hybrids

« Reply #11 posted: 3 years ago »
Some may find this interesting.

Recently we agreed to hold a bunch of wild caught erectus for a researcher.  Essentially quarantine and train to frozen.  The seahorses were collected at random in Florida Bay.  We held them for 3 weeks.  As a return favor, we were allowed to choose any 6 specimens we wanted out of the whole lot.  So we picked three pairs. 

About a week or so ago, we had someone here taking some clippings for DNA studies.  Since everything was already in place, the idea of taking clippings from the WC erectus occurred so they were done as well.  Today I was notified that 2 of the 6 WC H. erectus came back positive for being hybrids (H. erectus X H. reidi).  We do not know how many generations ago they were cross bred but the double banding came back for both species.  Looking at them, you would think they are all pure H. erectus.

H. erectus are more plentiful in this area but both species overlap.  Just thought some might be interested that some cross breeding does indeed occur in the wild. 

Dan
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Re: Friday Discussion - Hybrids

« Reply #12 posted: 2 years ago »
Only a year late to the discussion..

I don't have an issue with it personally, realistically most of my pets are hybrids, all of my garden surely is (roses, iris, tulips, various fruit tree's, etc) and so would be the majority of what I eat...domestication tends to go hand in hand with hybridization even though it's become slightly taboo in the more modern conservation ideology...and to be fair I can see it on both sides, I mean with Australias importation regulations being as tight as they are and the cichilds (example) here are often hybrids, but they're poorly bred hybrids in the majority of cases (ie ugly, dull colour, don't have the unique traits of the parent species, show obvious deformity, etc). As someone who's spent far more time in the freshwater side of the aquarium hobby I can tell it's only a matter of time before hybrids are common in the saltwater hobby, getting things to breed easily in an aquarium seems to be the biggest hurdle so far with saltwater (and while it's improved significantly in the last few decades, it's still not anywhere as easy as fresh water breeding).

Having said that though, with google "researching" I've found 6 different combinations of alleged (not all have pictures) seahorse hybrids, including combinations from opposite sides of the planet (angustus x erectus) which probably split from their common ancestor fairly far back but still produce fertile offspring.....just from how things in the freshwater hobby went, if seahorses become more popular as aquarium pets and continue to get easier to breed I can see many species (4+) species hybrids turning up in the not too distant future. Along with selective breeding that's bound to turn up some interesting morphs.

If nothing else I'd be surprised if asian breeders don't (or haven't already) try to cross abdominalis with species that survive at a higher temperature (reduce cost of keeping water as cold as that species requires), faster pregnancy and has easier to rear offspring (because 1000+ easily raised offspring every 3ish weeks = $$$$) for the traditional chinese medicine trade. So far abdominalis is the only common/easily gotten species in the hobby that I haven't come across any alleged hybrid of (which may be because they can't but given all the other species that apparently can it's either an interesting oddity of that species or no one's really tried since their ideal temp is much lower than  the other commonly available seahorse in the hobby)
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Re: Friday Discussion - Hybrids

« Reply #13 posted: 2 years ago »
Hi Protoavis! Welcome to FusedJaw! Lol, it's never too late. :) Matt Pederson has be writing about hybrids in clownfish.

I still sit on the fence on this issue. I personally want to keep species whole, because it could create a bunch of confused and ugly fish. We have enough of those. But I don't think hybridization is bad in and of itself. The hard part is making sure they are always labeled, which doesn't always happen.

And this hybrid between reidi and barbouri, IMHO, it's stunning. [via]

I have to admit; if I had barbouri, I'd be tempted.

Interesting idea about outcrossing H. abdominalis for temperature tolerance. I wonder if that would be a trait that could be bred into them. They actually tend to do okay in warmer temperatures and aren't stressed EXCEPT that they, like most seahorses, fall prey to bacterial illnesses when the water is warmer. But truthfully, they do seem to need to cooler than other seahorses to short-cut the disease process.

I do know when they've looked at the phylogenetics of seahorses, H. abdominalis appear to have diverged from the rest of the Hippocampus genera quite early on. It's possible it's been tried and there isn't any viable offspring.
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Re: Friday Discussion - Hybrids

« Reply #14 posted: 2 years ago »
It's what I'm suspecting, that H. abdominalis won't hybridise. It's readily available here in Australia and seems to be the cheapest species here in Australia so I just think if it were possible it would have happened by now, just a hunch but given how pretty much every other species in the hobby seems to have reported hybrids... Then again with their temperature range being lower, their size being GIANT compared with other species they just might not be as popular as other species.

Since my last post of 6 crosses, I've come up with 13 different hybrid crosses being reported on various forums/youtube/blogs/etc

Kuda X Riedi
Comes X Riedi
Riedi X Erectus
Erectus X Spinosissimus
Erectus X Angustus
Angustus X Barbouri
Barbouri X Comes
Comes X Spinosissimus
Barbouri X Whitei
Whitei X Procerus
Barbouri X Kuda
Barbouri X Reidi
Barbouri X Subelongatus


Obvious species missing from the list that some people have had at one point or another (or still seem to be available if you dig around) are breviceps, ingens, fuscus, histrix and abdominalis but it does seem the majority of seahorse species in the hobby interbreed and produce viable young so I imagine it's just a matter of time before we see something like a whitei x barbouri x reidi x erectus x  kuda. The easier seahorses get to raise and breed the more popular they'll become in home aquariums and the more likely those wide crosses are bound to happen, I see it as a case of when not if and hopefully more than just the aesthetic will be considered since I don't think the world needs another equivalent of the bloodparot cichild (if you're unfamiliar with them look them up, they're deformed, males are often infertile but some have displayed fertility and have been injected with hormones to increase fertility, etc they're trying to breed out the various deformities....it's odd)

Interestingly Barbouri seem to be involved in just under half of all the hybrid crosses I've come across. A little surprisingly (to me) no Barbouri X Erectus, id be interested in seeing that cross it's not something I can do though with Erectus not being in Australia and Australia's importation laws being what they are means they (Erectus) will never ever be here :( Someones going to have to start seriously looking for those zebras if Australia is to ever get the stripey seahorses.

edit - I just looked up phylogenetics at
https://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/s2014/halbach_kell/classification.htm
(there's an image chart towards the bottom)
given the comes x riedi and riedi x erectus (riedi isn't on the tree but comes is the highest branch after abdominalis and erectus is on the lowest branch, riedi is just the middleman) potentially could mean everything but the first 2 branches....although getting a pygmy horse to breed with a horse many times its size probably wasn't an option to begin with.

« Last Edit: 2 years ago by Protoavis »