Colorful New Seahorse Is Size of a Grain of Rice

Image: Richard Smith Link, CC BY 4.0

A new pygmy seahorse has been discovered off the coast of Japan — and it’s the size of a grain of rice.

The brightly colored Hippocampus japapigu or “Japan pig” was identified hiding among algae in southeastern Japan. While the animal’s name may seem a bit odd, the locals insist that the species resembles a tiny pig.

Though the creatures had been spotted by divers off of Hachijo-Jima Island before, the tiny seahorses hadn’t been described in scientific literature until ichthyologist Graham Short and his colleagues came along.

Image: Richard Smith Link, CC BY 4.0

After initially noticing that something was a little different about these particular pygmy seahorses, Short and his team decided to bring 3 specimens back to the lab for analysis. It was then that they determined that the color and pattern (described as “paisley” by one Texas A&M professor) were in fact significantly different than the other six known species of pygmy seahorse. They also observed that the “pigs” were adorned with a distinctive and unique ridge on their backs composed of triangular bones, along with just one wing-like appendage (most pygmy seahorses have two.)

It’s no wonder the Japan pig went undiscovered for so long; The miniature seahorses are quite easy to miss. Not only are they barely visible at just 16mm in length, they’re also exquisitely camouflaged and easily blend in with the surrounding seaweed.

These tiny seahorses are reportedly quite active and playful, and thrive in shallow waters where they dine on bountiful plankton.

The findings were documented in the ZooKeys journal. Watch the video below to learn more!