How Researchers Located Pygmy Seahorses in Taiwan via Social Media

The News Lens
Date: 2019/11/07
By: Shreya Dasgupta

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

A few marine biologists hunted for pygmy seahorses in Taiwan via Facebook and Instagram, and discovered that Taiwan is one of the world’s pygmy seahorse diversity hotspots.

Pygmy seahorses are fascinating animals. These tiny, colorful seahorses measure less than an inch (2.7 centimeters) and match their body colors and textures to those of the vibrant corals they call home. But these diminutive masters of camouflage are also extremely hard to spot. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that very little is understood about the seven pygmy seahorse species currently known to science.

But Colin Wen, a marine biologist at Taiwan’s Tunghai University, and his colleagues got creative.

Their hunt for pygmy seahorses initially started with a search for Denise’s pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus denise), a species that was first described in 2003 from Indonesia. The species hadn’t been recorded in Taiwan yet, although Wen and his colleagues had heard of rumored sightings at Orchid Island from their scuba diver friends.

“By chance, shortly after asking friends in the dive industry to record sightings of pygmy seahorses for us, a photo of H. denise taken at Orchid Island surfaced on social media,” Wen told Mongabay.

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