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What is a Pygmy Seahorse?

Don’t blink! You might miss them! Who exactly? The miniature pygmy seahorses, of course.

The tiny equestrian influence of the giant ocean, the pygmy seahorse is nature’s showing that greatness, indeed, does come in small packages. There are actually seven various species within the family of pygmy seahorses. Also known as miniature syngnathids (coming from the family Syngnathidae) or pipefish, these amazing creatures are drifters of the sea, being found mainly in the Coral Triangle area of Southeast Asia, but are also found in Indonesia, Philippines and Papua New Guinea.

So, how small are we talking here? Just a mere couple of centimeters is the height of these little ones; the average size ranging between 1.4 cm and 2.7 cm from the tip of their tiny tails to the end of their pint-sized snouts. Grouped into their specific order Syngnathiformes due to their incredible ability to consume food through a locked jaw system that sucks food through a tubular mouth, the pygmy seahorse has morphed into a species that uses it size and attributes to live a peaceful existence in tropical areas of the sea.

breviThe pygmy seahorse has been getting attention since around the 1970s. Back then there was only one pygmy seahorse known, the Bargibant’s pygmy. The consequential other six pygmy seahorses that have been discovered since have all been found during the new millennium. The last member to the circle found was the Coleman’s pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus colemani). This wee one was spotted off the east coast of Australia near Lord Howe Island. There have also been supposed sightings near eastern Papua New Guinea and Taiwan.

If you are wondering what the difference is between a normal seahorse and a pygmy seahorse other than size, then you need to know that there are two main varying characteristics. One variation is that the pygmy seahorse has a single gill opening at the back of the head whereas larger seahorses have two gill slashes on either side of the head. The other difference is related to raising the young. For the pygmy seahorse the male raises the infants within the trunk of his body, while larger seahorses brood their young in the pouch of their tails. There are some impostors to the pygmy circle due to their bitty size, such as the Australian bullneck seahorse, the Red Sea soft coral pygmy seahorse, and the southwestern paradoxical seahorse, but these don’t have the one gill specification connected to a true pygmy seahorse.

Another variation to the pygmy versus their bigger cousins is that pygmy seahorses have adapted themselves to live where other seahorses don’t: in tropical waters feeding on coral reefs, especially prone coral reef walls. In fact, some of the species of pygmy seahorses such as the Bargibant and Denise’s pygmy seahorse live completely on gorgonian corals. The pygmy seahorse thrives off of the small crustaceans contained within the coral.

The pygmy seahorse is a special creature of our oceans. Although not much data has been gathered on these petite gallopers, it is known that their population numbers are some of the lowest for seahorses overall. For this reason, be sure to help support conservation measures that protect our reefs. This gives amazing creatures like the pygmy seahorse the ability to thrive and be there for generations of scuba divers to see.