The Master of Camouflage – Pygmy Seahorse

The pygmy seahorse is no doubt a master of camouflage. Having the size of two grains of rice and being indistinguishable from gorgonian coral can make it only be identified with a magnifying glass or sharp focused eyes when it moves. They are found in Coastal Regions of the Indo-Pacific, Indonesia, Great Barrier Reef, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Japan and the Philippines.

 

An adult Pygmy Seahorse on average grows 2 centimeters making it the smallest species of seahorses.

There are 47 species of Seahorses. Like Octopuses, they have the ability to adjust the size of their cells in order to change their color to blend into their surroundings and because of this, researchers thought that there were more than 100 Seahorse species in the world. Out of all of them, the Pygmy Seahorse specialize in camouflage as they have an incredible body like that of the coral they spend their entire adult life on. This species was discovered when a researcher brought to their lab the Gorgonian coral to investigate on it only to notice this rice grain sized animal clung to it. They were surprised to come across a living mimic of the coral stems.

Although many of the coral reefs resemble plants, they are actually made up by animals known as coral polyps. Thousands of individual polyps form a colony, which in turn form reefs. Want to read more about corals? Click here.

On average, Pygmy Seahorses have a lifespan of one year in the wild and in captivity. They live in groups and typically around 28 of them have been reported to be seen on each of these corals. Different species live on different Gorgorian corals matching the ones they pick to thrive on.  They normally reside in depths of 10m-40m on reefs.  Of course, there are downsides to their incredible camouflage as they do attract a great deal of divers worldwide. In Sabah, a colony of pygmy seahorses is visited by 100 divers per day and unfortunately, it can be dangerous for them as the flashes of cameras could possibly influence them in negative ways.

Gorgorian Corals are also known as Sea fans. They are a type of colonial coral found in deeper waters on the edge of reefs. Unlike the stony corals, which make up the reef itself, most of these lack symbiotic algae in their tissue thus rely entirely on plankton and other food particles caught from the water.

There is a mystery of whether they change their color to match the corals or if they specifically pick the type of coral that matches them.  In 1969 when this species was found it was named by the scuba diver that first found it and collected specimens for the Noumea Aquarium in New Caledonia.

 

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