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I'm So Pygmy; You Can't See Me

Sugarland, TX

Let’s take a trip to the sea, where beautiful and brilliant creatures surround us. To the left, a colony of blue jellyfish whooshes by. To the right, a stunning coral reef sways gently, filled with a special kind of coral called gorgonian coral. Wait, look closer–there’s a small animal on the coral! It’s a pygmy seahorse, an itty-bitty fish found in the Indo-West Pacific. It’s the smallest known seahorse! Their maximum length is only 2.4 centimeters (0.94 inches). That’s about the diameter of a quarter!

Hippocampus bargibanti is a species of pygmy seahorse. They’re found about 16 to 40 meters below sea level and are as rare as they are tiny. They camouflage into their habitat so well that marine biologist George Bargibant (who this particular kind of pygmy seahorse is named after) didn’t even realize they were there when collecting a sample of a gorgonian coral. Gorgonian coral is a type of soft coral with small polyps. Pygmy seahorses become the color of the gorgonian coral. Usually, pygmy seahorses are either purple with pink or yellow with orange tubercles. About 28 pairs of pygmy seahorses can live on one gorgonian!

Just like any other seahorse, pygmy seahorses give birth to live young. Males cover the eggs for around two weeks in a pouch. Then, delivery is given to about 34 little pygmy seahorses. At birth, they’re only 0.07 inches (2 millimeters) long and so tiny and adorable! However, many pressing problems may harm their future.

Coral reef degradation and habitat loss are taking away their homes. Bargibant’s pygmy seahorse is a coastal species. Their habitats are being demolished by miscellaneous fishing (such as blast fishing and gillnetting) and coastal development. Climate change, global warming, and pollution are, of course, threatening them, and they are a significant problem to the whole planet. Rising ocean acidification and temperatures hurt their habitat, gorgonian coral.

Today, scientists are still researching more about the pygmy seahorse. We are still unsure of many things about them, from their diet to their conservation status. Scientists are also still learning the full extent of the problems that may harm pygmy seahorses and how to stop them. These tiny fishes may still be deep in the sea, but we won’t let them go anytime soon.

The Classification of a Pygmy Seahorse

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Actinopterygii

Order: Gasterosteiformes

Family: Syngnathidae

Genus: Hippocampus

Species: Bargibanti

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