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New Code of Conduct for Pygmy Seahorses Created
By Joseph Tepper, July 4, 2011 @ 01:29 PM (EST)

Our friends at Critters at Lembeh have shared with us a very useful document called “Diving with Pygmy Seahorses.” Dr. Richard Smith, who has spent hundreds of hours researching pygmy behavior, created this code of conduct as a way to preserve these amazing, infinitesimal creatures.

 

Diving with Pygmy Seahorses

Pygmy seahorses are a group of very small fish, between 1.4 (.5in) and 2.7(1in) cm in length. Two of these, Bargibant’s and Denise’s pygmy seahorses, live exclusively on the surface of Gorgonian seafans.

The seahorse’s very small size, fragility and the delicate nature of their gorgonian home puts them and their seafans at risk from damage caused by divers. The Code of Conduct presented here aims to reduce the negative impact that divers have on these rare animals.


Bargibant’s pygmy seahorse

(Hippocampus bargibanti)

Host: Gorgonian seafans of the genus Muricella

Identification:

  • Maximum length 2.7 cm
  • Short pug-like snout
  • Pronounced bumps over body
  • Colors include pink, red, and yellow with darker bumps

 

Denise’s pygmy seahorse

(Hippocampus denise)

Host: Seven gorgonian and a whip coral species are known hosts

Identification:

  • Maximum length 2.4 cm
  • Longer, slender snout
  • Body can be smooth or bumpy
  • Color very variable, including pink, red, white and yellow

 

Gorgonian seafans

  • Bargibant’s and Denise’s pygmy seahorses spend their entire adult life on a single gorgonian seafan, often inhabiting an area the size of a dinner plate. So the survival of their seafan home is vital for the seahorse.
  • Seafans grow very slowly, reaching 100 years of age and several meters wide.
  • Seafans are extremely delicate and easily damaged if touched.

 

Threats

  • Pygmy seahorses have the smallest populations of any known seahorse
  • Their biggest threats are habitat destruction and impacts from divers

 

Code of Conduct

This code of conduct was created from hundreds of hours of behavioral scientific research, observing the impacts of diver interactions on pygmy seahorses.   

                    

For more information, please contact Dr. Smith at richard@oceanrealmimages.com.


 

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