Meet Hippocampus nalu, new Pygmy Seahorse from South Africa

Extremely cryptic and always cute, Pygmy Seahorses are very popular among scuba divers and underwater photographers. First of them, Hippocampus bargibanti was described in 1970 and until 2003 remained alone, later accompanied by Hippocampus denise & Hippocampus colemani (2003) Hippocampus pontohi  (2008) Hippocampus satomiae & Hippocampus waleananus (2009), all from Western Pacific. Hippocampus japapigu was described from Japan (2018). Finally, 2 days ago (May 19) Hippocampus nalu was described from Sodwana Bay, South Africa. For me, this is the day of victory for underwater photographers and citizen science.

Hippocampus nalu.  Photo: Dr Richard Smith

The Sodwana pygmy seahorse was described by Drs. Louw Claassens and Richard Smith. But it was actually discovered three years before, when a local dive guide Savannah Olivier found and photographed this tiny creature. Dr Louw Claassens and Dr Dave Harasti arrived in Sodwana in 2018 looking for an entirely different animals. We can just imagine how shocked they were after dive guide demonstrated a photo of local pygmy seahorse! Definitely undescribed one, found 8000 miles away from other members of the group!

If you photographed pygmy seahorses you know it is far from easy! Sodwana Bay reefs are exposed to waves action and conditions for underwater macro photography are challenging. Congratulations to scientists and Savannah Nalu Olivier, Instructor and Dive Master, Pisces Diving, Sodwana. Great job!

Pygmy Sea Horses: more information and photos: Reef Fishes of the Coral Triangle

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