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Ecology and Conservation

Marine Knowledge

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Hippolyte varians (temporary name), belonging to Hippolytidae Family and Hippolyte Genus, is a Hippolyte species that mainly grows and inhabits the sea grass bed. The somatotype is petit and the maximum body length is close to 3 cm. It mainly inhabits sea grass beds in shallow waters and lives on adherent algae and organic debris, but it occasionally appears in reef waters with flourish algae. When the Marine National Park Headquarters (hereinafter referred to as MNPH) conducted a routine biological investigation in the intertidal zone on the sea grass bed located at the lagoon mouth of the west coast of Dongsha Island, MNPH unintentionally collected considerable amounts of Hippolyte varians samples and thus confirmed that a stable population of Hippolyte varians in Dongsha Atoll Natonal Park exists.

The body color of H. varians collected from Dongsha Island appears to be a dazzling emerald green  (egg-bearing females). (Photoed by Liao, Chen-Heng)
The body color of H. varians collected from Dongsha Island appears to be a dazzling emerald green
(egg-bearing females). (Photoed by Liao, Chen-Heng)

H. varians is named due to its various body colors that often appears to be in different depths of yellow, Brown, blue or green. Most of the time, the change of body color is related to peripheral environment. The body color of H. varians near the Dongsha Island that mostly appears to be dazzling emerald green like a crystal clear jadeite, may be due to a unique and vast sea grass bed. Under the influences of a habitat area of global sea grass bed that is diminishing gradually, the amount of H. varians has gone down. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorized the endangered status as Level B1ab(iii) (similar to the risky level of ethic distribution fragmentation or severe global diminishing of habitat area). The existence of H. varians usually means that local waters and the quality of water are flourishing. The exchange rate of water flow in the Dongsha Island lagoon waters is poor; therefore, the organic contents such as rotting algae are relatively abundant. The vast sea grass bed waters locates at the lagoon mouth hence becomes the breeding ground for H. varians to grow, inhabit and proliferate. The existence of H. varians in Dongsha Atoll National Park waters is significantly seasonal, roughly from November to July each year are the growing seasons, so the density of the population sometimes reaches 15inds./m3. The research staff of MNPH have attempted to breed and repopulate H. varians with an artificial breeding method. (Written by Liao, Chen-Heng)

Variegated phenotype of H. varians (Figure is adapted from: Brown phenotype of H. varians (Figure is adapted from:
Variegated phenotype of H. varians (Figure is adapted from: http://www.aphotomarine.com) Brown phenotype of H. varians (Figure is adapted from: http://www.aphotomarine.com)

 

The vast sea grass bed at the lagoon mouth of west coast on Dongsha Island is the major location for H. varians to grow and inhabit. (Photo by LIAO, CHEN-HENG)
The vast sea grass bed at the lagoon mouth of west coast on Dongsha Island is the major location for H. varians to grow and inhabit. (Photo by LIAO, CHEN-HENG)

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