Taiwanese researchers find first pygmy seahorse near Penghu

09/22/2021 08:20 PM
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Photo by Caparbio, CC BY-SA 3.0
Photo by Caparbio, CC BY-SA 3.0

Kaohsiung, Sept. 22 (CNA) Taiwan's National Academy of Marine Research (NAMR) said Wednesday that its research team found a Hippocampus bargibanti, a type of pygmy seahorse, in waters near the Penghu Islands in August, the first ever in that area.

The pygmy seahorse was discovered 30 nautical miles southwest of Qimei, the southernmost island in the Penghu archipelago, during a research trip last month, the NAMR said, noting that it is the first time the species has been found near Penghu.

The discovery indicates that the area of the Taiwan Strait where the creature -- beloved by local coral reef photographers due to its appearance which some find adorable -- was spotted is suitable as a natural habitat for the pygmy seahorse, NAMR President Chiu Yung-fang (邱永芳) said.

The NAMR will continue its work to develop a better understanding of the area which marine researchers did not begin to explore until 2020 due to strong currents and its complex ocean floor terrain, Chiu added.

During the trip, NAMR researchers took a research ship and used a small dredge net to collect samples from the bottom of the sea, the institute said, adding that this is a common way of collecting samples from benthic zones.

Among the samples collected the researchers found a pygmy seahorse, which was already dead, the NAMR said, adding that the animal will be used as a specimen for future research.

Pygmy seahorses have previously been found around Taiwan. According to the Fish Database of Taiwan, which is managed by Academia Sinica, the species was first discovered in Taiwan in 2007 in waters near Green Island.

Since then, the pygmy seahorse has been spotted by recreational divers off the coast of northeastern, southeastern and southwestern Taiwan.

The pygmy seahorse is a tiny sea creature that measures less than two centimeters in length, has a pinkish or yellowish body and usually attaches itself to vibrant coral where it feeds on plankton.

(By Hung Hsueh-kuang and Teng Pei-ju)

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