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Pea-Sized Seahorse Makes List of “Top Ten New Species of 2008”

Three fishes, including the minute Satomi’s pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus satomiae), were among the newly-described species voted to the “Top Ten” list, which is published annually by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University.  Another nominee, Materpiscis attenboroughi, an extinct fish fossilized in the act of giving birth 380 million years ago, provided the oldest record of live birth among vertebrates (please see photo).  The deep blue Chromis (Chromis abyssus), a gorgeous blue damselfish that thrives, in contrast to other family members, at depths of over 350 feet, is the third fish listed.

Tiny and Well-Camouflaged Seahorses (Seaponies?)

Measuring just 0.45 inches in height, Satomi’s pygmy seahorse (first collected, fittingly enough, by diver Satomi Onishi), lives off Derawan Island, Indonesia and northern Borneo, Malaysia.

Prior to its discovery, the title of smallest seahorse went to Bargibant’s seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti) which, at 0.8 inches, now seems a giant!  Bargibant’s seahorse bears an uncanny resemblance to the polyps of the gorgonian, or soft coral, upon which it lives (please see photo).  In fact, the first specimens described (1970) had lived in a small aquarium, attached to a gorgonian, for several days before being discovered by a startled researcher.

Further Reading

“Standing” an impressive 0.9 inches in height, Florida’s dwarf seahorse is our smallest native species.  Both it and the much larger Atlantic seahorse make fairly good choices for folks interested in keeping members of this fascinating but delicate family of fishes.  Please see my article The Natural History and Care of Native Seahorses for more information.

If you are interested keeping many varieties of seahorses in the aquarium and discovering how they live in the wild, please check out my book Seahorses, A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual.

Please write in with your questions and comments.  Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.

Hippocampus bargibanti image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Jnpet

Materpiscis attenboroughi image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Sularko


  1. avatar

    Your article is very interesting and I am keen to purchase your book on keeping seahorses. You mention that these tiny seahorses can be kept by aquarists. I am looking to set up a seahorse tank and my passion is the tiny species, Satomi, Denise and Bargibanti, however I cannot find anywhere to purchase them? I live in the UK so if you could give me any help that would be greatly appreciated. I am a conservationist so am deeply interested in looking after these tiny creatures.

    Kindest Regards

    Penny Taylor

  2. avatar

    Hello Penny, Frank Indiviglio here. Thank you for your kind words concerning my article and seahorse book …much appreciated.

    Unfortunately, the tiny seahorses in which are interested are rather rare in both the wild and captivity, and do not often appear in the trade. The dwarf seahorse (Hippocampus zosterae) is available but, as far as I know, only from collectors and breeders in Florida, USA (where this species is native). The are true dwarfs, rarely toping 2 inches in height, and fare well and even reproduce in captivity if provided with a steady supply of newly-hatched brine shrimp and similar foods. I’m not sure how they would weather the long journey to the UK, however.

    One option for you might be to get in touch with the National Aquarium at Plymouth, which now houses the seahorse collection formerly held at the Seahorse Nature Aquarium in Exter. Neil Garrick-Maidment, a prime force behind the founding of the aquarium at Exter, has written a fine book on seahorses, with an emphasis on those native to your waters. Perhaps someone at the National Aquarium, or a member of the British Marine Life Study Society, can put you in touch with a local dwarf seahorse breeder.

    If a local source is not available, please write back. A colleague of mine is a marine biologist based in Florida, and may be able to recommend which supplier would be most reliable in shipping these delicate creatures to the UK. Please also let me know how you fare, or if you have an interest in other species.

    Thanks again for your interest…Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    Dear Frank

    Thank you for replying and giving me the contact at glaucus. I have contacted them and they cannot help me. I have contacted every possible seller or breeder that I can find via Internet and phone book and word of mouth.
    I was wondering if you would be able to ask your friend, you mentioned them being a marine biologist. I would greatly appreciate this.
    I want to day thank you again for taking the time to reply to me.

    Kindest Regards

  4. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your kind comments, much appreciated.
    I’ll email my contact now and will touch base with you as soon as I hear back from him.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.