Seahorse pygmy denise. (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016.)
Seahorse pygmy denise. (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016.)

Shy as a pygmy seahorse

  Indonesia: Triton Bay - March 2016

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Those tiny sea horses are a-do-ra-bles!!! But they're very shy, and they hate having their picture taken...

Mini, mini, mini ...

Triton Bay, Indonesia, where I stayed in March 2016The Bay of Pygmy Seahorses is worthy of being renamed "Bay of Pygmy Seahorses". I don't think I've ever seen such a concentration of mini sea horses in all my life as a diver.

These tiny bargibanti pygmy seahorses are no bigger than the nail of my little finger ... (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016)
These tiny bargibanti pygmy seahorses are no bigger than the nail of my little finger ... (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016)

Photographing them is really a challenge, because of their tiny size. Just think: the seahorses in the picture above are about the size of my little finger nail!

So, to observe, some divers get a magnifying glass. And underwater photographers like me shoot them with a lens macro, which captures tiny subjects down to the smallest detail.

Locating them during a dive is therefore really not easy. They are most often found in huge fan-shaped coral "bushes", the gorgonians. To find them, it's a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack ...

Are there pygmy seahorses in this gorgon? (Triton Bay, March 2016.)
Are there pygmy seahorses in this gorgon? (Triton Bay, March 2016.)

So every time I choose to put the macro lens on my Canon Eos 7D, my two Indonesian guides Andi and Edi, from the resort Triton Bay Divers, carefully inspect the gorgonians and corals around.

Does this gorgon harbor a family of pygmy seahorses? (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016.)It's a bit like a competition between them, whoever finds the first one the adorable pygmy seahorses first!

But it's a game of patience, a delicate quest, not always successful. I am always very impressed when one of my precious guides manages to find these mini-sea horses, kings of camouflage, among the branches of a huge gorgon ...

In Triton Bay, I'm spoiled. As the days go by, I discover that here, in abundance, we find the three most famous and most coveted species for divers: seahorses, seahorses, seahorses, seahorses, seahorses. bargibanti, denise and pontohi (I present them below).

So there is both variety and profusion on the same area. It's rare. Really, this Indonesian bay, located in West Papua, south of Raja Ampats biodiversity hotspot status. I talked about it in this first post:

→ Diving under the coconut palms of Triton Bay

bargibanti

So here is the pygmy hippocampus bargibanti (Hippocampus bargibanti, also named seahorse pygmy gorgonians). It most often has small bumps of pink-purple or yellow-orange color.

A purple bargibanti hippocampus poses on its gorgonian branch. (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016)
A purple bargibanti hippocampus poses on its gorgonian branch. (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016)

The bumps of the bargibanti serve as camouflage and allow it to merge with the branches of the gorgonians of the same colour, which are also bumpy when their polyps are closed. In its pink-mauve version, it is the most widespread pygmy seahorse, the one that I photographed most often during my dives in the Indo-Pacific zone. I also discovered at Triton Bay a variant with red humps and white body: this type of seahorse, particularly rare, is nicknamed "Santa Claus" by my guides, who are overexcited if they find one!

Denise

The pygmy hippocampus denise (Hippocampus denise, also named yellow pygmy hippocampus or Denise's pygmy seahorse) is more slender in appearance. It is also endowed with small protuberances, less numerous, and its color also varies according to its environment, from yellow-brown to pale pink.

Seahorse pygmy denise. (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016.)
Hello, Denise the seahorse! (Triton Bay, March 2016.)

He is similarly very talented to pass unnoticed or almost in the branches of gorgonians he lives. Less common than the bargibanti, it is highly coveted by underwater photographers.

Pontohi

Finally, there is the elusive and delicate pontohi (Hippocampus pontohi, also named Pontoh's Pygmy Seahorse). A rarity as difficult to spot as to photograph.

Seahorse pygmy pontohi. (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016.)
Very shy, the pontohi lives hidden in "twigs" of coral. (Triton Bay, March 2016.)

His white body decorated with red and yellow patterns allows him once again to play hide and seek among the "twigs" of coral and algae leaves where he likes to take shelter, on walls or underwater drop offs... And I even once saw his cousin the servensiless flamboyant, with a brownish color.

Seahorses orgy

These graceful little sea horses don't like - but then not at all - pictures. They are shy, big shy people who hate being in the spotlight. With their tails curled up on their branches, as soon as they notice that they are being taken in too close, they prefer to turn slowly... and turn their back stubbornly to the lens! This is sometimes exasperating.

So it takes time, sometimes a lot of time, to manage to photograph one from the front or the side. The most annoying thing is when he decides to change branches. It then takes a long time to find it! The help of a lynx-eyed guide is indispensable...

Fortunately, I spent about ten days in Triton Bay dive three times a day. What to deliver me, patiently, to a photographic orgy of pygmy seahorses ... Their delicate beauty never ceases to amaze me.

Pygmy Seahorse bargibanti. (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016.)

Seahorse pygmy denise. (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016.)

An adorable Pygmy Seahorse Bargibanti in its purple gorgon with wide open polyps. (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016)
An adorable Pygmy Seahorse Bargibanti in its purple gorgon with wide open polyps. (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016)

Seahorse pygmy denise. (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016.)

Seahorse pontohi pygmy. (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016.)

Pygmy Seahorse bargibanti. (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016.)

29-seahorse-denise

Seahorse pontohi pygmy. (Triton Bay, West Papua, Indonesia, March 2016.)

30-seahorse-denise

🙃

  Indonesia: Triton Bay - March 2016

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    1. @Brice: thank you!!! That's exactly it, we enter another world, the world of the very small, of the "macro". The slightest relief in a branch of coral becomes an element of the "landscape" in which these tiny creatures evolve. It's fascinating... 🙂

  1. Corinne, frankly sublime, your pygmies! Thank you !
    I did not know the Pontohi, a discovery. Beautiful, especially the two together. I have like that a sublime pair of yellow seahorses not holding the tail, discovered at Richelieu Rock in Thailand. This is my February photo, in my calendars, to symbolize Valentine's Day! Your two entwined Pontohi make me think! 8)

    1. @Marc: thank you for this enthusiastic comment! Nice to have introduced you to Pontohi. Even more discreet and shy than the others, this one... I was incredibly lucky to catch both of them together in this posture, too bad one of them hides his snout behind the coral... 😉

  2. So Pontohi would be the shyest?! 😉
    Beautiful photos brought back from the depths of time and seas.

    1. @Ysbilia: Yes, tiny, rare and very shy... He hides behind the coral as soon as he sees the lens. Exasperating to photograph !!! Much more difficult to immortalize than a whale shark or a manta ray... 🙄

  3. Cerebral seahorse and marine hippocampus which of the two is pygmy? It's extraordinary.

  4. Good evening Corrine
    Beautiful pictures (as usual!) I did not know these seahorses! Too cute.
    Thank you for sharing with us all these beautiful moments.
    Cordially.
    Louise 😉

  5. Still very beautiful pictures.
    Pictures of pygmy seahorses very successful. Well done for the result and for v
    your patience.
    We want more ……

  6. Another moment of escape and dream thanks to your pictures Corinne. One of these days I hope to dive in your footsteps.
    THANK YOU and still lots of wonderful dives to you.

    1. @Anne: very touched by your message, thank you! I prolong myself the escape by rediscovering my photos on the way back, when I prepare the blog articles... Happy to succeed in sharing my happiness underwater 🙂

  7. The world of the liliputians is really nice all the same! At sea as on land, by the way. We often forget that there are wonders that are barely visible. Thank you Corinne for giving us the opportunity to (re)discover them through your sublime photos! 🙄

  8. Very beautiful pictures, as usual. I have a big preference for Bargibantis on a red background of corals.
    Level photography, it looks pretty complicated to take pictures. Did you have a lot of junk? Especially at the level of focus.

    1. @Jean: I am now more used to photography these little beasts so reluctant to the photo ... It is not so much the development that is a challenge (by force of practice and experience, one ends up mastering this aspect, with a suitable macro lens) than to "capture" the hippocampus at the right time, when it is right in the right position. For nothing, they keep moving. There is no real recipe, it takes a lot of patience, take the time to observe, anticipate its settings for lighting too ...

      I did not evaluate the proportion of my "waste" on pygmy seahorses. Of course, there are always, but it does not seem to me more important than for other types of subjects.

      When I do not really succeed at the end of a few pictures, I change my angle or my location, until I find a more favorable disposition to redo some shots. Sometimes it is useless to hunt uselessly on the same hippocampus that has already taken a lot of flashes in the eyes, the poor ...

  9. Wow what photos!
    When we know how tiny these seahorses are, we really realize that these pictures are real feats! Personally I like pygmy seahorses, but they are so small that I sometimes lose patience while looking for them 😆 As you say, without a guide in the eyes of a lynx, it's difficult to find these little animals. At least with your pictures you can see them (very very) close 🙂 Thank you very much!

    1. @Anne Sophie : yes, the macro photo, it makes you pay attention to the small, even the tiny... The presence of a guide is really precious, not to say indispensable 🙄

    1. @Tamelie: not easy to answer this question. There is so little information about pygmy seahorses (they are rare and difficult to observe) that scientists do not know their population. We do not know if it tends to decrease or not ...

      If I believe the information provided by the Wikipedia files of the species of which I speak above, the IUCN (the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) which establishes the red list of endangered species indicates only that it There is not enough data.

      The other reference in this respect, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) places Pygmy Sea Horses in Appendix II, which means that they are not necessarily threatened. but their trade must be regulated to avoid exploitation incompatible with their survival.

      Pygmy seahorses are so small and so difficult to find that I do not believe they are being fished and traded, unlike the larger species of seahorses that are sadly found in many Asian shops, where they are sold dried ...

      In any case, these tiny inhabitants of the sea fans are dependent on their habitat, and therefore on the health of the coral ecosystems. We can therefore assume that pygmy seahorses are like them threatened by the warming of the ocean.

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