Meet the Japan Pig – a new species of pygmy seahorse discovered

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© Richard Smith - www.oceanrealmimages.com

A new species of pygmy seahorse has been discovered in Japan, named the Japanese Pygmy Seahorse, or Japan Pig (Hippocampus japapigu). Only a few millimeters long, these charismatic creatures inhabit shallow waters and blend in well with the algae-covered rocks where they live. They are not found living in close association with a specific host such as a gorgonian or soft coral, rather they cling to algal turfs in the subtropical reefs on which they live

The species is characterised, and distinguished from the other free-living pygmies, by a reticulate pattern of white lattice over the body, which often has a black spot within it.  There are also several morphological and genetic differences between this and other pygmy seahorses.  The body colouration is brown, beige, to pink and whitish. They inhabit subtropical and temperate reefs from southern to the central west of Japan.  The Izu islands of Miyake and Hachijo are good locations to find these elusive seahorses, as well as Kushimoto and Sagami Bay.

© Richard Smith – www.OceanRealmImages.com

Richard Smith, part of the team that put forward the scientific paper to name this new species, states “I’m so pleased that this project naming the Japanese pygmy has finally come to fruition. It all began over a decade ago when I first saw a picture of an unusual pygmy seahorse from Japan. In 2013, after completing my PhD on the biology of their cousins the Bargibant’s and Denise’s pygmies, I went to a fish biology conference in Okinawa, Japan primarily with the goal of adding on a trip afterwards to hunt for the elusive fish. I found a dozen of them, when I took many of these images and made early field observations. Jumping forward to a seahorse biology conference in Tampa, Florida, for my involvement with the IUCN Seahorse, Pipefish and Stickleback Specialist Group, I met Graham Short and told him about the seahorse, and the rest is history!”

For more information and images of pygmy seahorses, visit Richard Smith’s website by clicking here.

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown are a husband and wife team of underwater photographers. Both have degrees in environmental biology from Manchester University, with Caroline also having a masters in animal behaviour. Nick is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in underwater wildlife photography and he also has a masters in teaching. They are passionate about marine conservation and hope that their images can inspire people to look after the world's seas and oceans. Their Manchester-based company, Frogfish Photography, offers a wide range of services and advice. They offer tuition with their own tailor made course - the Complete Underwater Photography Award. The modules of the course have been written to complement the corresponding chapters in Nick's own book: Underwater Photography Art and Techniques. They also offer equipment sales and underwater photography trips in the UK and abroad. For more information visit www.frogfishphotography.com.

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