A recently discovered species of seahorse was recently spotted in the waters of Sodwana Bay, in South Africa. The tiny seahorse is just about the size of the nail of one’s little finger. Its ecosystem is in the Simangaliso Wetland Park, commonly referred to as the Heritage Site in KwaZulu-Natal.
Hippocampus nalu is only 2cm in height, being the first pygmy seahorse to be discovered living in the African waters. Researchers have discovered that the newly discovered species is different from all the pygmy seahorses known until now. In addition to this, the closest genetically seahorse species is locates at more than 8,000 km away, living in the Pacific.
Most of the Seahorse species are threatened to become extinct. This risk is generated by the human activities in many of the regions all around the world, including bottom trawling, habitat destruction or over-fishing. This has led to a number of species being listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. For now, no pygmy seahorses are considered threatened, but that is simply because our knowledge of them is extremely limited. As more species are being discovered and we learn more about these creatures, researchers are offering us advice on what we should do to prevent their disappearance.
Pygmy seahorses are an important boost for the travel and tourism sectors, as scuba divers enjoy seeing these tiny species. What’s more, they are willing to come from far away to see creatures such as the newly discovered pygmy seahorses. If habitat protection methods are being taught to both scuba divers and to coastal communities, the potential social and economic benefits are enormous.
The part about this discovery that is absolutely mindblowing is that it did not begin in the classical laboratory setting or as a collaboration between scientists. The entire discovery began with a simple photograph.