If you keep your eyes peeled while you’re diving the reefs of Indonesia you might – might – see a pygmy seahorse. You’ll have to look carefully, though, as these little creatures measure between just 1,4 and 2,7 centimeters when they’re fully grown.
Pictured here is a Bargibant’s pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti), shot by Dunia Baru’s cruise director, Leah Sindel, in Raja Ampat. Raja Ampat, off the northwest tip of New Guinea island, is an archipelago of more than 1500 small islands, and is revered as the global epicenter of marine diversity and one of the best dive locations on the planet. It’s also one of the few places in the world where you will see a pygmy seahorse, as their distribution is limited to the Coral Triangle. (And Raja Ampat is where Dunia Baru will spend a few months later this year.)
While looking for info on the Barbigant’s pygmy seahorse, we came across the website of Dr Richard Smith, the first person to ever have completed a PhD on the biology of pygmy seahorses. There are seven species of pygmy seahorses and these little marine creatures, Smith says, were only discovered in 1969. The first species was found by scientist George Bargibant (hence their name), while the other six species were only discovered this millennium.
Barbigant’s pygmy seahorses spend their entire adult lives on a single gorgonian coral, says Smith, and he cautions that divers take special care around them. “These diminutive seahorses are particularly susceptible to damage from poor techniques,” he says. “It is vital that neither the seahorses nor their gorgonian hosts are touched in any way and bright constant lights such as torches have been shown to disturb the seahorse’s natural behaviors.”