Known for its beauty. Known for its rarity. Known for its miniscule size and known as the master of camouflage, the smallest seahorse in the world is not known until as recently as 2003. Images of this marine critter were submitted for identification sometime in 1997 by underwater photographer Denise Tackett. It was through these images that this species of seahorse was finally described and identified and eventually named Hippocampus denise after the underwater photographer who was key to this discovery.
This seahorse the size of a little finger nail measuring no bigger than 1.2 mm to 2.4 m. is found in the Indo-Pacific oceans in the coral reefs of South East Asia from Malaysia to Indonesia and as far as Micronesia. From a depth of 10m to 20 m and even at depth up to 100m where Gorgonian sea fan corals thrive.
There are two interesting observations on the H. denise’s adaptive behaviour. One view is that the H. denise seahorse is sea fan specific and another view it is that the H. denise seahorse is able to live on a variety of sea fans and can adjust its coloration and structure to that of the host sea fan. In that bumpy sea fan will have bumpy H. denise and smooth sea fan will have smooth body H. denise seahorse.
H. denise comes in a variety of colors from yellow to orange and developed its body structure and polyp-like tubercles on its body similar to the host coral. It is considered relatively rare as its population data is not well recorded and so is its distribution.
The H. denise has long body, long neck and long pre-hensile tail. It feeds on small crustaceans and and zooplanktons. The H denise is about the same size as that of H. pontohi.
It is being threatened by human activities and categorised for further observation under CITES.
These images were taken in Makawide in Lembeh Straits at about 20 m. There are other dive sites in Lembeh where this critter can be sighted.
Do ask your dive guide at your dive resort for guidance. When taking photographs of this critter do be careful not to cause harm to them due to their delicate body and sensitivity.
Enjoy your dive and photographic journey.
Dive Safe Always !