Hippocampus bargibanti was the first Pygmy seahorse to be described in the world. This species of fish were first discovered by accident on a piece of gorgonian coral (Muricella sp) which was collected by Georges Bargibant for the Nouméa Aquarium in New Caledonia in 1969. They cling to the coral with their prehensile (curly) tail and mimic the colours of the coral so well, they are hard to see.
As its name implies, the Pygmy Seahorse is a tiny fish. It lives on gorgonians (sea fans) of the genus Muricella.
The first specimens of Hippocampus bargibanti were collected in New Caledonia at a depth of 30m. The male is only 13mm long and like all Syngnathid species, can become pregnant and give birth to young independent seahorses.
Pygmy seahorses are defined from "other" larger seahorses by their size (<27mm SL), a single gill at the back of the head and trunk brooding of their young. Hippocampus bargibanti has a short snout, rounded knob-like coronet and irregular bulbous tubercles on the body. It has a rounded spine above each eye and on each cheek.Two colour morphs are recorded for this species, one is pale grey or purple with pink or red tubercles, the second is yellow with orange tubercles.
Since the discovery of Hippocampus bargibanti in 1970, seven more pygmy seahorses have been discovered including Hippocampus denise (2003) from Indonesia, Hippocampus colemani (2003) from Lord Howe Island, Hippocampus pontohi (2008), Hippocampus satomiae (2008) and Hippocampus walaenanus (2009) ; all discovered from Indonesia, Hippocampus japapigu (2018) discovered from Japan and most recently Hippocampus nalu from South Africa (2020).
This species is known from coral reefs of the Western Pacific including Australia.
The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.
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Short, G., Claassen L, Smith, R., Brauwer, M., & Hamilton, H., Stat M., Harasti, D. 2020. Hippocampus nalu, a new species of pygmy seahorse from South Africa, and the first record of a pygmy seahorse from the Indian Ocean (Teleostei, Syngnathidae) ZooKeys. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.934.50924.
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