Pygmy seahorse, one of the smallest seahorses

pygmy seahorse
Pygmy Seahorse in Anilao, Philippines. Solanaboy

The pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti) is a small fish in the Syngnathidae family. Their camouflage is so remarkable that it was not discovered until 1969 when, in an Australian laboratory that was studying the gorgonian genus Muricella, appeared this little fish.

Pygmy seahorses live in the region that forms the Coral Triangle in Southeast Asia, from the tropical south of Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, east of Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu and Australia’s Great Barrier. His name «pygmy» comes from their small size that reaches a maximum of 2.7 centimeters from the tip of the tail to the tip of the nose.

Pygmy seahorses of Malboal, Philippines

Pygmy Seahorses are morphologically different from all other species of seahorses. Apart from its extremely small size, they have a single gill opening in the back of the head as opposed to the two that the rest of the hippocampi have. Another feature that is different between Pygmies and other seahorses is that they have greatly specialized to live in their chosen habitats, spending their entire adult life in just one type of gorgonian, the Muricella, both gender Paraplectana and Plectana. The similarity of this seahorse with this type of gorgonian makes it very difficult for predators to detect them, mainly the long-nose hawkfish. The pygmy seahorse mimics even the coral polyps in its body and also the color.

Among the pygmy seahorses, which feed on small mollusks as adults and plankton when juveniles, there are two color patterns: gray with red tones in these protuberances that mimic polyps and yellow with orange bumps.

Pygmy seahorse
The pygmy seahorse hides on gorgonian Muricella sp. in order hide from predators. Image by Tom Gruber

Like all seahorses, the male is responsible for the care of the eggs and giving birth. Females eggs are transferred to the male’s brood pouch, where they remain between 11 and 14 days. The male has blood vessels that carry nutrients and oxygen to the developing offspring. After that period of time, between 6 and 34 pups come out of the male abdomen.

These seahorses are now very popular among divers and are commonly observed and photographed because of their remarkable abundance. They are found at depths of between 16 and 40 meters and special care must be taken to see and photograph these fish (generally with all marine life), but these tiny seahorses are particularly susceptible to damage caused by poor diving techniques. It is vital to protect that seahorses, never to be touched and do not point the flashes or flashlights to them for a long time as it can modify the natural behavior of these delicate animals.

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