Sydney Seahorse Art Project - Art Activity Kit

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Art Activity Kit

Sydney Seahorse Art Project North Sydney Council’s Arts & Culture team has partnered with Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) to protect the endangered Sydney Seahorse and we need your help! Children, families and educators can help by diving into this Art Activity Kit, it’s been developed by artists and SIMS scientists especially for children in preschool and primary school. Once children have completed the activities, share their drawings with us. We’ll transform them into an underwater animation to tell the Sydney Seahorse story! The animation will be exhibited at the Coal Loader in May 2022, where children can see their drawings come to life!

Thanks to our project partners!

Create and share your drawings with us! Share your drawings by 15 January 2022 Upload via the website or scan the QR code Drop off at Stanton Library customer service desk or the return chute Post to Locked Bag 916 North Sydney NSW 2059 Need help? Call 9936 8100 Email

Dive into sparkling Sydney Harbour and explore a hidden underwater world! Along the way you’ll meet Dr Dave, a marine scientist and Dawn, an endangered Sydney Seahorse who needs your help to save her home.

Meet Dr Dave the Marine Scientist Dr Dave researches marine animals, plants and habitats including threatened and endangered species. His research helps scientists and communities work together to protect species at risk of extinction. Dr Dave scuba dives in Sydney Harbour and Port Stephens, which is how he met Dawn the Sydney Seahorse! He finds Dawn remarkable and is committed to protecting the Sydney Seahorse and its habitat. Dr Dave is also a talented underwater photographer. You can see many of his photographs in this kit, along with illustrations by Georgia McWhinney.

Meet Dawn the Sydney Seahorse Dawn is a Sydney Seahorse Dr Dave discovered 7 years ago on a dive. The Sydney Seahorse Hippocampus whitei belongs to the Syngnathidae family of fish which includes seahorses, seadragons and pipefish.They are part of the Hippocampus genus (Greek for horse and sea monster!) The Sydney Seahorse is a North Sydney local, calling the waters of Balls Head Bay and the Coal Loader home!

How does Dr Dave recognise Dawn? Marine scientists like Dr Dave use special tags to track and research seahorses. These appear as tiny orange spots and are called Visible Implant Fluorescent Elastomer (VIFE) tags.

Take a deeper dive... watch Dr Dave measure and tag seahorses

Sydney Seahorse Facts Coronet Pectoral fin Trunk rings

Large eyes Long snout

Dorsal fin

Pouch (only in male)

Tail rings

Rectangular bony plates cover body

Sydney Seahorses can grow up to 16cm long.

Sydney Seahorses are found along the east coast of New South Wales and Queensland, and as you’ve probably guessed from their name, live in Sydney Harbour.

More amazing Sydney Seahorse Facts! They’re the slowest swimming fish in the ocean, averaging a cruisy 1.5 metres per hour They swim upright and can move upwards, downwards or backwards unlike other fish They don’t have teeth or a stomach and must eat almost constantly to stay alive They’re very good at camouflaging by changing colour They use their strong tails to grasp onto objects Daddy seahorses fall pregnant and give birth They mate for life and are true romantics Their favourite food is shrimp

Seagrass Meadow habitat Dawn and her Sydney Seahorse friends prefer to live in shallow water in areas such as estuaries, coastal bays and harbours, just like Sydney Harbour. One of their favourite places to set up home is seagrass meadows of Posidonia australis.

Soft Coral and Sponge Garden habitat Another favourite place for Dawn and her Sydney Seahorse friends to set up home is soft coral and sponge gardens. Dawn especially likes to live amongst gardens of Dendronephthya australis, commonly known as Cauliflower soft coral.

Swimming net habitat When Dawn and her Sydney Seahorse friends can’t make a home in natural habitats like seagrass meadows and soft coral gardens, they live in artifical habitats such as swimming nets and under wharfs. The old Coal Loader wharf in Waverton is one of Dawn’s favourite artificial habitats!

But there’s a problem and Dawn needs your help! Sadly, the Sydney Seahorse’s natural habitat is rapidly declining due to climate change, pollution, coastal development and damage from boat moorings. Seagrass meadows and soft coral gardens are under threat, which is why the Sydney Seahorse is running out of places to live and is endangered.

This seagrass meadow has been badly damaged by an anchor

Plastics and Microplastics don’t belong in the Ocean GO PLASTIC FREE Did you know 8 million tonnes of plastics enter the ocean every year? Sadly, marine animals mistakenly swallow plastics believing it to be food. FOR IDEAS TO KICK THE PLASTIC HABIT Check out Council’s Plastic Free North Sydney webpage Visit the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability Attend one of SIMS’ fantastic primary school workshops

Don’t dump Fishing Gear and Chemicals in the Ocean FISH RESPONSIBLY Did you know 500,000 - 1 million tonnes of fishing gear is discarded or lost every year? Also known as ghost fishing gear, its the deadliest form of marine plastic rubbish, entangling marine animals and damaging habitats such as soft coral gardens and seagrass meadows. THINK BEFORE YOU PUT IT DOWN THE SINK Chemicals enter the ocean from homes, factories and farms by accident or incorrect disposal. Check out Council’s A-Z of Recycling webpage

Operation Posidonia are replanting Seagrass Meadows and you can help! Through projects like Operation Posidonia, marine scientists are restoring declining seagrass meadows. Scientists can’t do this good work on their own though – they need help from ‘Citizen Scientists’ in the community. You can join a local Seagrass Storm Squad and be part of the solution!

Time to get Creative! THINGS YOU NEED • • • •

Colouring-in pages and activity pages from this kit Or your own white paper to draw on (maximum size A3) Coloured pencils or watercolour pencils A brush for blending watercolour pencils and to create watery backgrounds

ACTIVITY 1 Option a) COLOUR-IN A SEAHORSE SANCTUARY Dawn’s favourite places to eat, rest and play need some colour! There's room to add more of Dawn's seahorse friends too.

Option b) DRAW YOUR OWN SEAHORSE SANCTUARY Imagine you are a Sydney Seahorse. Draw the habitat where you live. Is it a soft coral garden, a seagrass meadow or underneath the Coal Loader wharf? And don't forget to include the neighbours or visitors like Dr Dave in your drawing. Use the drawings, photos and videos in this kit for ideas or take a look at Stanton Library’s Sydney Seahorse Reading Guide.

Don’t forget to share and send us your drawings


Activity Imagine you are a Sydney Seahorse. Draw the habitat where you live. Is it a soft coral garden, a seagrass meadow or underneath the Coal Loader wharf?

Dawn and Dusk: A Seahorse Love Story

Seahorse Slow Dancing Dawn and Dusk are monogamous which means they are mates for life. They begin their day with a romantic synchronised dance - twisting, twirling, locking tails and changing colours to express their love. How cute!

Here’s Dawn and Dusk dancing

ACTIVITY 2 Option a) COLOUR-IN A PAIR OF DANCING SEAHORSES Our dancing seahorses need some colour!

Option b) DRAW YOUR OWN DANCING SEAHORSES Time to draw your own seahorses dancing! Use Dr Dave's photos or the drawings in this kit to help you along

Don’t forget to share and send us your drawings


Activity Don't forget to add some coral so your dancing seahorses feel at home!

Amazing Dads In seahorse families the male becomes pregnant and gives birth! After the male and female complete a beautiful courtship dance, the female places her eggs inside the male’s pouch where they are fertilised and grow into babies. Around 20 days later the male gives birth to 100 - 250 fully formed baby seahorses.

Watch this amazing video of a Daddy Seahorse giving birth!

Seahorse Babies and Seahorse Hotels To help declining populations of the Sydney Seahorse recover, a breeding project has been established by SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, SIMS and the NSW Department of Primary Industries. As part of the project, wild seahorses from Clifton Gardens were moved to the aquarium where they gave birth to hundreds of babies. The babies grew healthy and strong before being released in one of their favourite swimming net habitats. To make sure the babies had a safe place to call home, ‘Seahorse Hotels’ were installed nearby. These are quickly overgrown by algae, sponges and coral making a ‘natural’ home in which the seahorses can live.

Sydney Seahorse Breeding Project Watch this video to find out more about the Sydney Seahorse Breeding Project.

You can help provide SeaBnBs for Seahorses SIMS would love for you to support the SeaBnB Initiative. Just like a real BnB, you can ‘book a stay’ for a seahorse in a Seahorse Hotel! All money raised helps SIMS and their partners protect the Sydney Seahorse and its habitat.

Masters of Disguise Sydney Seahorses use camouflage to blend with their surroundings, hide from predators and sneak up on prey.

Same Dawn, different colour! On the left she is camouflaging in a Seahorse Hotel and on the right in a sponge garden

Every Colour under the Sea Sydney Seahorses change colour to camouflage when they sense danger and to express their feelings - particularly feelings of love! When Sydney Seahorses do their courtship dance, their colours brighten and lighten. Seahorses have special organs known as chromatophores in their skin which allow them to change colour.

ACTIVITY 3 COLOUR-IN THE SEAHORSES TO EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS Seahorses are known to change colour depending on their feelings. Colour-in these seahorses with your feelings. Dawn would love to see your own seahorse drawings as well, and there's room to draw and colour your own. There's plenty of Dr Dave's photos in this kit to help you along!

Don’t forget to share and send us your drawings


Now you see me, now you don’t! Did you know some crabs like to play dress-up? The Decorator Crab Hyastenus elatus camouflages by covering its body with tiny bits of algae, seaweed, sponge and coral. These coverings continue to grow and enhance its clever disguise.

A Decorator Crab without its disguise on the left and ‘decorated’ in sponge on the right

Watch Out... Predators About! All marine animals need to eat and seahorses are on the menu for these predators - yikes! It’s just as well Sydney Seahorses are good at camouflaging and hiding.

Mourning Cuttlefish Sepia plangon

Little Penguin Eudyptula minor

Common Octopus Octopus tetricus

ACTIVITY 4 Option a COLOUR-IN A PREDATOR Colour this octopus and cuttlefish so that Dawn knows who to watch out for. There’s plenty of room to add more predators and some fishy food.

Option b) DRAW A YOUR OWN PREDATOR Use the hints and tips, plus the drawings in this kit to help you along.

Don’t forget to share and send us your drawings



The Common Octopus has 8 long arms, bulging eyes and a beak!

The Mourning Cuttlefish uses jet propulsion, leaving behind clouds of ink!

QUirky Critters We think you’ll agree seahorses are unusual but they aren’t the only quirky critters in the ocean. Take a look at some of these unusual Sydney Harbour species.

Green Moray Eel Gymnothorax prasinus

Porcupine Fish Dicotylichthys punctulatus

Anglerfish Antennarius striatus

ACTIVITY 5 Option a) COLOUR-IN A QUIRKY CRITTER Let’s show everyone there’s nothing ordinary about our marine life! Colour this Anglerfish and Porcupine Fish. There’s room to add rocks and a sandy seafloor. These marine animals come in all sorts of colours so be bright and bold!

Option b) DRAW YOUR OWN IMAGINARY OCEAN CRITTER Using your imagination means anything is possible! We can't wait to see your imaginary ocean critter.

Don’t forget to share and send us your drawings


Activity Will your imaginary marine animal be hairy, or scary, small or large Where will it live? On the seafloor or near the surface? You might like to mix one animal with another - a seahorse with tentacles?

BIG Hunters in Sydney Harbour Seahorses are small and hard to spot, however these BIG Sydney Harbour hunters are hard to miss!

Grey Nurse Shark Carcharias taurus

Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus

ACTIVITY 6 Option a) COLOUR-IN BIG HARBOUR HUNTERS These big Grey Nurse Sharks are usually found in the dark harbour depths, amongst rocky ledges or close to the sandy sea floor.

Option b) DRAW YOUR OWN BIG HARBOUR HUNTER Remember these hunters are big! Watch Dr Dave's video of Grey Nurse Sharks, or take a look at the photos and drawings in this kit to help you along.

Don’t forget to share and send us your drawings



Creatures of the Night Dawn and her Sydney Seahorse friends are diurnal, meaning they’re active during the day and sleep or rest at night - just like us. Here’s some of Dawn’s nocturnal neighbours who stay awake at night!

Comb Jelly Ctenophores

Eastern frogfish Batrachomoeus dubius

Pineapplefish Cleidopus gloriamaris

ACTIVITY 7 Option a COLOUR-IN SUPER BRIGHT COMB JELLIES Help light up Sydney Harbour with an underwater light show. Use bright rainbow colours like those seen on the jellie’s tentacles to make them glow. Add even more jellies and creatures of the night, there’s plenty of room!

Option b) DRAW YOUR OWN AMAZING CREATURES OF THE NIGHT Dr Dave is looking for some nocturnal marine animals. Help him out by drawing Pineapple Fish, Frog Fish or Comb Jellies. Use Dr Dave's photos or drawings in this kit to help you along.

Don’t forget to share and send us your drawings



Sluggish and Steady Sydney Seahorses aren’t the only sluggish swimmers in Sydney Harbour! Nudibranchs are part of the sea-slug family and are very slow movers. What sea-slugs lack in speed, they make up for in colour!

Ceratosoma amonenum

Chromodoris collingwoodi

Flabellina rubrolineata

ACTIVITY 8 Option a) COLOUR-IN SLOW MOVING NUDIBRANCHS These Nudibranchs are too dull and need colour. Go bold and bright, add stripes and spots, whatever you like. There’s no such thing as too much colour with these sea-slugs!

Option b) DRAW YOUR OWN NUDIBRANCHS Will your Nudibranchs be spotty, spiky or stripy? Use Dr Dave's photos or the drawings in this kit to help you along.

Don’t forget to share and send us your drawings



Zappers and Stingers Sydney Seahorses don’t bite or sting, they haven’t even got teeth, let alone a stinger. We bet you’re wondering how they eat? Seahorses suck their food through their snout and swallow it whole. Dawn keeps well away from these dangerous critters who zap and sting.

Blue Lined Octopus Hapalochlaena fasciata

Bluebottle Physalia utriculus

Stingaree Trygonoptera testacea

Friendly and Curious While Sydney Seahorses are shy and like to keep to themselves, these critters are known to be friendly and curious when they encounter humans in their underwater homes.

Green Sea Turtle Chelonia mydas

Blue Groper Achoerodus viridis

ACTIVITY 9 Option a) COLOUR-IN A CURIOUS CREATURE Colour the friendly Green Sea Turtle and Blue Groper. They are often surrounded by lots of smaller fish. There’s room to add some smaller fishy friends here if you like.

Option b) DRAW YOUR OWN CURIOUS CREATURE Don't forget these curious creatures are pretty big! Use Dr Dave's photos or the drawings in this kit to help you along.

Don’t forget to share and send us your drawings



Speedsters of the Harbour Here are some of the Sydney Seahorse’s speedy neighbours. Did you know that Kingfish can swim at a speed of 5.5 metres per second? Compare that to Sydney Seahorses, who only swim at 1.5 metres per hour!

Australian Fur Seal Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus

Kingfish Seriola lalandi

Pink Snapper Chrysophrys auratus

ACTIVITY 10 Option a COLOUR-IN THESE SPEEDY KINGFISH AND SEALS This school of speedy kingfish and pair of seals need colour. Get creative and add some whooshing water to make them go faster.

Option b) DRAW YOUR OWN SPEEDSTERS Speedsters are built for speed, so they are usually long, a bit like a racing car! Use Dr Dave's photos or the drawings in this kit to help you along.

Don’t forget to share and send us your drawings