Huntsville, AL, US of A
World's Smallest Seahorse Discovered; Biologists Find Tiny Animal In
Marine biologist Sara Lourie, a member of the University of British
Columbia-based Project Seahorse marine conservation team, has identified the
world's smallest known species of seahorse.
Adults of the new species, a pygmy seahorse known as Hippocampus denise, are
typically just 16 mm long - smaller than most fingernails. In the past they
have been mistaken for the offspring of another of the 32 known species of
As the scientist chiefly responsible for the find, Lourie had the honour of
naming the new species. She chose to recognize underwater photographer
Denise Tackett, whose 1997 images first hinted at the need for a new
classification. "Denise" is derived from Dionysus, the Greek god of wine,
and means "wild or frenzied," which seems appropriate, according to Lourie.
"Compared with other small seahorses, they've active little creatures," she
Because it lives among the deeper corals and is a master of camouflage, the
diminutive new fish may be safe from the over-exploitation threatening other
seahorse species. But with only a handful of sightings on record, it's hard
to know what risks they face, warns Lourie. Heavy-duty trawling gear that
can flatten reefs is one potential threat. Underwater tourism is another.
"Divers and photographers could possibly love these animals to death," she
Lourie is doctoral student at McGill University in Montreal. She worked with
Dr. John Randall of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii, to describe the
new species. Their research, appearing in the current issue of the journal
Zoological Studies, is the result of extensive co-operation with divers,
photographers and naturalists from around the world.
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