Pygmy seahorses are a highly specialised subcategory of seahorses that are tiny in stature, even compared to the already small seahorses. This diminutive stature combined with an extraordinary camouflage ability make this one of the most challenging species to find on the reef.
They were so hard to find that until a marine biologist named Bargibant collected and observed gorgonian coral and found the pygmy’s living on it.
They average 12mm-27mm in size, whilst they have tubercules that match the host coral’s colour and a body that matches the corral trunks.
Discovery of a Pygmy Seahorse
Bargibant first observed the pygmy seahorse in 1969. In 2003 another species of pygmy seahorse was discovered.
Since then, a total of ten species have been discovered and named.
- Bargibant’s pygmy seahorse
- Denise’s pygmy seahorse
- Pontoho’s pygmy seahorse
- Satomi’s pygmy seahorse
- Severn’s pygmy seahorse
- Walea Soft coral pygmy seahorse
- Coleman’s pygmy seahorse
- Japanese pygmy seahorse
- Sodwana Pygmy seahorse
Pygmy seahorses live on seagrass, soft coral, and especially gorgonian corals (sea fans).
However, with the discovery of new species, their habitat ranges widen, as recent species are free living.
This does complicate habitat description for the pygmies, as new evidence is showing that despite being a highly specialised organism, its known habitat range is likely restricted from its true habitat range due to the difficulties in finding such a tiny and well-camouflaged organism, especially if the habitats are not standard between species.
Each species is also very specialised in its environment because of its incredible camouflage. This means that a gorgonian pygmy would stick out with the seagrass pygmies and vice versa.
However, this specialisation increases the extinction risk of the pygmy seahorse because it is not a species that is not well adapted to any environment other than its current one.
Not much is known about the mating and social dynamics of the pygmy seahorses due to the scarcity of data resulting from their observational difficulties.
However, aquarium studies can provide insights whilst still demonstrating how little we know of these organisms.
Like their seahorse counterparts, the male pygmies will carry the fertilised eggs in a brood pouch found under their tails.
The newborn pygmies begin life in a planktonic stage before settling on a host coral and undergoing colour changes to blend with its new host coral.