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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Adults are usually found in pairs or clusters of pairs, with up to 28 recorded on a single gorgonian, and may be monogamous (1) (2). Unusually, it is the male, and not the female, that becomes pregnant in seahorses (7). Breeding occurs year-round, and gestation averages two weeks (2) (4), during which the male carries the eggs concealed within his trunk region (5). In one birth witnessed underwater a male 'gave birth' to a brood of 34 live young (2). The young look like miniature adult seahorses, are independent from birth, and receive no further parental care (7).
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Description

The pygmy seahorse is undoubtedly one of the most well camouflaged species in the oceans, being extremely difficult to spot amongst the gorgonian coral it inhabits. So effective is this camouflage that the species wasn't actually discovered until its host gorgonian was being examined in a lab. Large, bulbous tubercles cover this species' body and match the colour and shape of the polyps of its host species of gorgonian coral, while its body matches the gorgonian stem. Two colour morphs exist – pale grey or purple individuals scattered with pink or red tubercles are found on the similarly coloured gorgonian coral Muricella plectana, and yellow individuals with orange tubercles are found on gorgonian coral Muricella paraplectana (4). It is not known whether individuals can change colour if they change hosts, although the ability to change colour according to their surroundings does exist in some other seahorse species, such as H. whitei (5). Other distinctive characteristics include a fleshy head and body, a very short snout, and a long, prehensile tail (4) (6). This is also one of the smallest seahorse species in the world, typically measuring less than 2 cm in height (1). The male carries eggs and young concealed within the trunk region (5).
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Comprehensive Description

Biology

Only known to occur on gorgonian corals of the genus Muricella, with up to 28 pairs on a single gorgonian. The tubercles and truncated snout of this species match the color and shape of the polyps of the host gorgonian, while its body matches the gorgonian stem. So extreme is this camouflage that the original specimens were only noticed after their host gorgonian had been collected and observed in an aquarium. Post-pelagic young settle on various hosts, but to breed, they appear to prefer the red polyp Muricella spp. That usually grow in depths over 20 m (Ref. 48635). Ovoviviparous (Ref. 205). The male carries the eggs in a brood pouch which is found under the tail (Ref. 205).
  • Lourie, S.A., A.C.J. Vincent and H.J. Hall 1999 Seahorses: an identification guide to the world's species and their conservation. Project Seahorse, London. 214 p. (Ref. 30915)
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Distribution

Indo-West Pacific: Japan to Queensland, Australia eastward to Vanuatu. Conservation status: data deficient (Ref. 30915). International trade is monitored through a licensing system (CITES II, since 5.15.04).
  • Lourie, S.A., A.C.J. Vincent and H.J. Hall 1999 Seahorses: an identification guide to the world's species and their conservation. Project Seahorse, London. 214 p. (Ref. 30915)
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Western North Pacific to Bali, Indonesia.
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Range

Known from coral reefs in the tropical western Pacific around Australia (Queensland), Indonesia, Japan, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines (1) (2).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 1315
  • Lourie, S.A., A.C.J. Vincent and H.J. Hall 1999 Seahorses: an identification guide to the world's species and their conservation. Project Seahorse, London. 214 p. (Ref. 30915)
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Size

Maximum size: 20 mm OT
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Max. size

2.4 cm OT (male/unsexed; (Ref. 31803))
  • Gomon, M.F. 1997 A remarkable new pygmy seahorse (Syngnathidae: Hippocampus) from south-eastern Australia, with a redescription of H. bargibanti Whitley from New Caledonia. Mem. Mus. Vict. 56(1):245-253. (Ref. 31803)
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Diagnostic Description

Description based on 4 specimens: Adult height, less than 2.0 cm. Rings, 11-12 + 31-34. Snout length is greater than 4.0 in head length. Dorsal fin rays, 13-15 covering 1+1 rings. Pectoral fin rays, 10. Coronet, a rounded knob. Spine, as irregular bulbous tubercles scattered over body and tail; a single prominent rounded eye spine; a single low rounded cheek spine. Other distinctive characters: head and body very fleshy, mostly without recognizable body rings; ventral portion of trunk segments incomplete; snout extremely short. Color pattern: two color morphs are known: (a) pale grey or purple with pink or red tubercles (found on gorgonian coral Muricella plectana) and (b) yellow with orange tubercles (found on gorgonian coral Muricella paraplectana).
  • Lourie, S.A., A.C.J. Vincent and H.J. Hall 1999 Seahorses: an identification guide to the world's species and their conservation. Project Seahorse, London. 214 p. (Ref. 30915)
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Very little is known about the ecology of this species. It is one of the smallest seahorse species, measuring less than 2 cm in height (Lourie et al. 1999). It has a specific habitat, being found only on gorgonian corals Muricella plectana (Gomon 1997, Tackett and Tackett 1997, Whitley 1970) at depths ranging from 16–40 m (Tackett and Tackett 1997). Hippocampus bargibanti appears to form pairs and may be monogamous (Tackett and Tackett 1997).

Systems
  • Marine
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Environment

reef-associated; non-migratory; marine; depth range 16 - 40 m (Ref. 30915)
  • Lourie, S.A., A.C.J. Vincent and H.J. Hall 1999 Seahorses: an identification guide to the world's species and their conservation. Project Seahorse, London. 214 p. (Ref. 30915)
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Depth: 16 - 40m.
From 16 to 40 meters.

Habitat: reef-associated.
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Only known to occur on gorgonian corals of the genus Muricella, typically at between 16 and 40 m depth (2).
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Trophic Strategy

Found in inshore waters; living on gorgonian (Ref. 75154).
  • Foster, S.J. and A.C.J. Vincent 2004 Life history and ecology of seahorses: implications for conservation and management. J. Fish Biol. 65:1-61. (Ref. 52034)
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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Possibly monogamous in the wild (Ref. 30915). Male carries the eggs in a brood pouch (Ref. 205).
  • Lourie, S.A., A.C.J. Vincent and H.J. Hall 1999 Seahorses: an identification guide to the world's species and their conservation. Project Seahorse, London. 214 p. (Ref. 30915)
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
DD
Data Deficient

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2003
  • Needs updating

Assessor/s
Project Seahorse

Reviewer/s
Foster, S.J., Marsden, A.D. & Vincent, A.C.J. (Syngnathid Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
There are no published data about population trends or total numbers of mature animals for this species. There is very little available information about its extent of occurrence or its area of occupancy. There have been no quantitative analyses examining the probability of extinction of this species. As a result, we have insufficient data to properly assess the species against any of the IUCN criteria, and propose a listing of data deficient (DD).

History
  • 1996
    Data Deficient
    (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
  • 1996
    Data Deficient
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Status

Classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
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Population

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
Major threats to the species are currently unknown, however, their attractive colouration makes it possible they could be collected for the aquaria trade.
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Data deficient (DD)
  • IUCN 2006 2006 IUCN red list of threatened species. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded July 2006.
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Very little is known about the total number of pygmy seahorses, population trends, distribution, or major threats. It has therefore been classified as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1). Because of the unusual and attractive colouration of this small seahorse it is possible that it could be being collected for the aquaria trade (1), although no international trade in the species has been recorded (2).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The entire genus Hippocampus was listed in Appendix II of CITES in November 2002. Implementation of this listing will begin May 2004. Environment Australia lists the conservation status of H. bargibanti as Data Deficient (Pogonoski et al. 2002). The Australian populations of this species were moved under the Australian Wildlife Protection Act in 1998, so export permits are now required. The permits are only granted for approved management plans or captive bred animals. Such management was transferred under the new Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in 2001. Many states also place their own controls on the capture and/or trade of syngnathid fishes. Very few data are available for this species. Further research on this species biology, ecology, habitat, abundance and distribution is needed.
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Conservation

All seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) are listed on Appendix II of CITES, effective as of May 2004, limiting and regulating their international trade (2). Australian populations of pygmy seahorses are listed under the Australian Wildlife Protection Act, so that export permits are now required, although they are only granted for approved management plans or captive-bred animals. With such limited data available on this fascinating animal, there is an urgent need for further research to be conducted on its biology, ecology, habitat, abundance and distribution, before its status can be properly assessed and conservation measures implemented accordingly (1). The remarkably effective camouflage of this astonishing species may make such surveys particularly challenging, but hopefully it will also help protect it from exploitation, keeping it safe and hidden in the Pacific reefs where it belongs.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Importance

fisheries: of no interest
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Wikipedia

Hippocampus bargibanti

Hippocampus bargibanti, also known as Bargibant's seahorse or the pygmy seahorse, is a seahorse of the family Syngnathidae found in the western central Pacific Ocean. It is tiny, usually less than 2 centimetres (0.79 in) in size and lives exclusively on fan corals.[2] There are two known color variations: grey with red tubercles, and yellow with orange tubercles. It is unknown whether these color varieties are linked to specific host gorgonians.[3] Because of its camouflage, the species wasn't discovered until its host gorgonian was being examined in a laboratory.[4] Scientists believe other, similar, species remain to be found.[2]

Description[edit]

The pygmy seahorse is well camouflaged, being extremely difficult to spot amongst the gorgonian coral it inhabits. So effective is this camouflage that the species wasn’t actually discovered until its host gorgonian was being examined in a laboratory. Large, bulbous tubercles cover its body and match the colour and shape of the polyps of its host species of gorgonian coral, while its body matches the gorgonian stem. It is not known whether individuals can change colour if they change hosts, although the ability to change colour according to their surroundings does exist in some other seahorse species, such as Hippocampus whitei. Other distinctive pygmy seahorse characteristics include a fleshy head and body, a very short snout, and a long, prehensile tail. This is also one of the smallest seahorse species in the world, typically measuring less than 2 centimetres (0.79 in) in height.[5]

Distribution[edit]

The pygmy seahorse is found in coastal areas ranging from southern Japan and Indonesia to northern Australia and New Caledonia on reefs and slopes at a depth of 10–40 metres (33–131 ft).[6]

Reproduction[edit]

Adults are usually found in pairs or clusters of pairs, with up to 28 pygmy seahorses recorded on a single gorgonian, and may be monogamous. As with other seahorses, the male carries the young. Breeding occurs year-round. The female lays her eggs in a brood pouch in his trunk region. They are fertilized by the male, and incubated until birth with gestation averaging two weeks.[2] In one birth witnessed underwater, a male expelled a brood of 34 live young.[5] The young or fry look like miniature adults, are independent from birth, and receive no further parental care.[6] The fry are dark.[7]

Conservation[edit]

Very little is known about the total number of pygmy seahorses, population trends, distribution, or major threats. It has therefore been classified as Data Deficient on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.[1] Because of the unusual and attractive colouration of this small seahorse it is possible that it could be being collected for the aquaria trade,[1] although no international trade in the species has been recorded.[5] Under the care of experienced researchers at national aquaria, all pygmy seahorses and their gorgonians have died.[7]

All seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), effective as of May 2004, limiting and regulating their international trade.[5] Australian populations of pygmy seahorses are listed under the Australian Wildlife Protection Act, so that export permits are now required, although they are only granted for approved management plans or captive-bred animals. With such limited data available, there is an urgent need for further research to be conducted on its biology, ecology, habitat, abundance and distribution, before its status can be properly assessed and conservation measures implemented accordingly.[1] However, the remarkably effective camouflage of this species may make such surveys particularly challenging.

References[edit]

Well-camouflaged pygmy seahorse on a gorgonian coral Muricella sp. See this image to identify the pygmy seahorse.
A pygmy seahorse found at a depth of around 32 metres (105 ft) at Tulamben near a shipwreck
  1. ^ a b c d Project Seahorse (2003). Hippocampus bargibanti. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 12 May 2006.
  2. ^ a b c Epoch Times Staff. (8/11/2011.) "Science in Pictures: Pygmy Seahorses." The Epoch Times, Northern California Edition.
  3. ^ Reijnen, B.T., van der Meij, S.E.T., van Ofwegen, L.P. (2011) "Fish, fans and hydroids: host species of pygmy seahorses." ZooKeys 103: 1-26.
  4. ^ ARKive species fact-file
  5. ^ a b c d Lourie, S.A., Foster, S.J., Cooper, E.W.T. and Vincent, A.C.J. (2004) A Guide to the Identification of Seahorses. Project Seahorse and TRAFFIC North America, Washington D.C..
  6. ^ a b Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2006). "Hippocampus bargibanti" in FishBase. December 2006 version.
  7. ^ a b Smith, Richard E. Pygmy seahorse research

This article incorporates text from the ARKive fact-file "Hippocampus bargibanti" under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License and the GFDL.

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