Indonesia is well known for having some of the most diverse and unusual marine life on earth and the evidence of this is overwhelming when we take a look at the number of seahorse species alone which are found across the archipelago. Not only is Indonesia home to a vast array of seahorse species it’s also home to “pygmy seahorses” too. Here are our top 6 favourite seahorse species and where you can find them in Indonesia.
Read on to find out more about these amazing sea creatures…
Pygmy Seahorses of Indonesia
Bargibanti (Hippocampus bargibanti)
The bargibanti pygmy seahorse (above) was the first species of pygmy seahorse to be discovered (1969). The discovery was made by a scientist, Georges Bargibant, who was collecting specimens of Muricella gorgonian sea fans. It was only when the sea fans were on his dissecting table that Bargibant discovered two tiny seahorses peering out from the fan. This species grows up to 2cm and can be found at depths of up to 50meters. They live exclusively on Muricella gorgonian fans and their bodies are covered in “tubercles” to mimic the texture and appearance of the fan. They usually have a pink coloration with darker tubercles and are often found in small colonies on one host fan.
Denise (Hippocampus denise)
The denise pygmy seahorse (above) was discovered in the Lembeh Strait – which is where Two Fish Lembeh is located. This pygmy seahorse is smooth skinned and has a much more slender body than the bargibanti. The denise species of pygmy grow up to just 1.5cm and they have been spotted at depths of up to 70 meters. This species has a short snout and a slender body with a prehensile tail which is uses to hold itself in place. Denise pygmy’s are not exclusive to Muricella fans and can also be found living in both Anella and Echinogorgia fans as well.
Pontohi (Hippocampus pontohi)
The pontohi species iwas actually discovered in the Bunaken Marine Park and is named after the dive guide who found the very first one! Its a weedy species, and it’s head and spine are covered in what appears to be extremely fine red hair, and it grows to 1.7 cm which makes it one of the smallest representatives of the seahorses. The body is small and slender whereas the head is relatively large and represents about 25% of the size of the body. The eyes are prominent and it has a moderately long snout and this later does not have any bulbous tip. The “red hair” is actually numerous distinctive branching filaments. The body background colour is whitish with a yellow to pinkish colour on the head and backside of its body. This is quite a rare species to find so our dive guides get very excited when they spot one!
Other Seahorses of Indonesia
Common Seahorse (Hippocampus taeniopterus)
The common seahorse usually displays black and brown colourations, although the female of the species can appear to be slightly more yellow. This is one of the larger species of seahorse found in Indonesia and it can grow up to 25cm. The common seahorse favours sandy bottoms and sea grass beds where it is well camouflaged and has vegetation to attach itself to by its tail.
Thorny Seahorse (Hippocampus hystrix)
The thorny seahorse is also known as the “spiny seahorse and adults of this species are up to 15cm – 17cm in length. The body is slender, elongated and completely covered with thorns. These are sharp with dark tips, and uniformly sized on the prehensile tail. The trunk has long thorns which continue until the coronet, which has 4-5. The head is also provided with numerous spines especially on the forehead, the base of the cheeks, the nose and above the eyes. The snout is very long and tapered. Body coloration is highly variable to match surroundings and goes from grey to cream, and from bright yellow, to green or red and even brownish. It can be plain or with different pattern on the side or/and on the backside. The snout is generally striped with one or more thin white lines. This species is usually found in water deeper than 10 meters where it attaches itself to sponges and soft corals – but it can also be found on rubble patches too.
Estuary Seahorse (Hippocampus kuda)
This species is also known as also known as the yellow seahorse or spotted seahorse and it can reach a length of 17–30 cm.
The body is quite large, elongated and has no spines, all bumps are rounded. The head is relatively large compared to the body. The snout is short and thick. The coronet is small and rises towards the rear, it can also sometimes have more or less long filaments. Some adults have a black line running through the dorsal fin in the direction of its width. The body coloration is often dark with a grainy texture but can also be yellow, cream or reddish with blotches and numerous small dark spots (hence the name “spotted seahorse”)
The Estuary species inhabits both sandy or rocky bottoms and it prefers the sheltered waters of estuaries, harbours or mangroves. It can also be found drifting in open pelagic waters where it clings to drifting Sargassum seaweed.
Are you looking forward to seeing some of Indonesia’s seahorses on your next trip? We hope this guide helps you decide where to stay to see the species you are hoping to spot!
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