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New Japanese seahorse species discovered, as big as a grain of rice

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A newly discovered type of pygmy seahorse is quickly becoming the new sensation among marine researchers and sea wildlife enthusiasts by being “too damn small” according to the writer of this article.

The pygmy seahorse in question is called Hippocampus japapigu, or Japan Pig was seen before by local scuba divers despite the seahorse natural camouflage resembling coral, but only now was it properly researched and documented, the research team published their observations in Zookeys.

The pygmy seahorse Hippocampus japapigu sp. n. is described based on three specimens, 13.9–16.3 mm SL, collected from a mixed soft coral and algae reef at 11 m depth at Hachijo-jima Island, Izu Islands, Japan. The new taxon shares morphological synapomorphies with the previously described central Indo-Pacific pygmy seahorses, H. colemani, H. pontohi, H. satomiae, and H. waleananus, including extremely small size, 12 trunk rings, strongly raised continuous cleithral ring, snout spine, large spine on the eighth lateral and fifth and 12 superior trunk ridges, respectively, and unusual wing-like-protrusions immediately posterior to the head. Hippocampus japapigu sp. n. can be distinguished from all congeners by the following combination of features in the anterodorsal area of the trunk: bilaterally paired wing-like protrusions formed by a single pair of large, truncate spines projecting dorsolaterad on the first superior trunk ridge, followed by a unique elevated dorsal ridge formed by triangular bony mounds dorsally on the second to fourth superior trunk ridges.

Another aspect of this new seahorse that only accentuates their popularity is their personalities, researchers describe them as “quite lively and even playful.”

Although there are some concerns that this new species will soon find itself being diminished by practices such as their use in traditional Chinese medicine or aquariums, Graham Short an ichthyologist at the California Academy of Sciences and lead author of the study, says he’s not worried about the Japan pigs. Since they’re so tiny, that stealth just might be among the skills of this seahorse.

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