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Mini Superstar of the Seabed - Pygmy seahorse discovered in Taiwan Bank by NAMR
Date:2021-09-22
Unit:Marine Ecology and Conservation Research Center

  The pygmy seahorse, known as the “superstar of the sea” and the “supermodel of the crystal palace” is popular among divers because of its amusing and cute appearance, and is also one of the target species that underwater photographers yearn to spot on coral reefs. The National Academy of Marine Research (NAMR) recently recorded the first sighting of pygmy seahorses in the Taiwan Bank, a shallow bank about 30 nautical miles southwest of Qimei Island in the Penghu Archipelago, adding another important discovery to the rich marine biodiversity of this area.
        The Taiwan Bank has strong currents and a complex topography featuring not only sandy terrain, but also a coral reef substrate. In order to map out the current status of ecological resources in the waters surrounding Taiwan, the NAMR conducted the first underwater survey of the Taiwan Bank in 2020. This year, in collaboration with the Fisheries Research Institute of the Council of Agriculture, the "Marine Biological Information Collection and Resource Survey in the Waters Surrounding Taiwan Project" was launched to investigate the surrounding waters, where traces of pygmy seahorses were discovered.
       Researcher Cheng Ming-Hsiu of the Biodiversity Research Center of Academia Sinica, who has long been concerned about the marine ecology of Taiwan Bank, recalled that he had found two stunning pygmy seahorses during a diving survey in the waters of Manado, Indonesia, in 2003 and immediately spearheaded efforts to find pygmy seahorses in Taiwan after returning home. With the positive response and support of diving enthusiasts in Taiwan, the pygmy seahorse has been found in various coral reefs across Taiwan. According to records from the Fish Database of Taiwan, pygmy seahorses were first found in 2007 in the waters of Zhongliao Fishing Harbor on Green Island and has been documented and photographed by divers in Orchid Island (Lanyu), Penghu Islands, as well as the Northeast Coast, East Coast and Kenting on the main island of Taiwan. This discovery of pygmy seahorses on Taiwan Bank is the most unusual sighting recorded in Taiwan so far.
       The pygmy seahorse belongs to the class Actinopterygii, under the order Syngnathiformes and the genus Hippocampus. There are currently seven known species worldwide, namely Hippocampus bargibanti, H. colemani, H. denise, H. pontohi, H. satomiae, H. waleananus and H. nalu (African pygmy seahorse). The pygmy seahorse found on Taiwan Bank is a Bargibant's seahorse[PC1] , which prefers to live with its host, soft corals (Alcyonacea) that thrive on coral reefs with strong currents and feeds on plankton in the water.  The specimen will be stored by NAMR in the National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium for future research by academe.
       NAMR President Chiu Yung-Fang emphasized that the Taiwan Bank is located in Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone and the discovery of the pygmy seahorse has confirmed that the waters are also a suitable habitat for them to live in and thrive and further demonstrates that the conservation of the marine ecology of the Taiwan Bank warrants more attention. However, because of the treacherous waters of the Taiwan Bank, it is not a recommended location for diving enthusiasts to spot the seahorses. This is not only to avoid putting themselves in danger, but also to protect the seahorses from being disturbed. In the future, NAMR will continue to conduct ecological surveys in the waters of the Taiwan Bank to better grasp the status of marine biological resources and to protect the habitat of the pygmy seahorses and the rich territorial waters of Taiwan.

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  • Update: 2021-09-22
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National Academy of Marine Research