Weedy pygmy seahorse (Lenny Kim, The Ducks Diving Romblon)
A diver has photographed two rare species of seahorse in the Philippines that have never been seen before in the country’s seas
The shots of a weedy pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus pontohi) and Severn’s pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus severnsi) were submitted to the iSeahorse app, which collates sightings from the public, and have been verified by the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) Project Seahorse as the first records of these species in the Philippines.
The new observations mean there are now 11 species of seahorse known to inhabit Philippine waters. Conservationists hope news of this discovery will encourage other divers to keep their eyes peeled for these chameleon-like fish.
The seahorses were spotted near the island of Romblon, which lies in the West Philippine Sea.
'The exciting discovery of these seahorses in new waters demonstrates the important role citizen scientists can play in conservation,' said Chai Apale, iSeahorse Philippines coordinator for Project Seahorse.
'Seahorses are found across the globe from the UK to the Seychelles. Now that the holiday season is in full swing, we’re encouraging the public to don their flippers and use the iSeahorse app to record their seahorse sightings.'
The weedy pygmy seahorse was previously only known to inhabit Indonesian waters. It's one of the smallest seahorses growing to maximum height of 1.4cm. The Severn’s pygmy seahorse grows to just 1.3cm - smaller than a sugar cube.
Their miniature stature means they are less likely to become bycatch in shrimp fisheries than other species of seahorse, a major threat to seahorse populations globally. However, overfishing and shoreline development pose an increasing threat to the coral reefs that they inhabit.
Research assistant at Project Seahorse, Riley Pollom says: 'Millions of seahorses are caught and traded dead and alive all over the world. They're mysterious creatures and poorly understood, but through iSeahorse we hope to harness the collective knowledge of citizen scientists to learn more about them and develop appropriate conservation protections.
'To date, more than 500 sightings have been submitted from all over the world and they will contribute towards ensuring seahorses remain a permanent feature of our coastal waters.'
Find out more at www.iseahorse.org
Severn's pygmy seahorse (Lenny Kim, The Ducks Diving Romblon)