Media Release | May. 9, 2003
World's smallest seahorse discovered
Biologists find tiny animal in Indonesian waters
Marine biologist Sara Lourie, a member of the UBC-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 seahorses.
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're
active little creatures," she says.
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 says.
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.
For more information and photo and video images contact:
James Hrynyshyn, Project Seahorse
UBC Public Affairs Office