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The pygmy seahorse is undoubtedly one of the most well camouflaged species in the oceans, being extremely difficult to spot amongst the gorgonian coral it inhabits. So effective is this camouflage that the species wasn't actually discovered until its host gorgonian was being examined in a lab. Large, bulbous tubercles cover this species' body and match the colour and shape of the polyps of its host species of gorgonian coral, while its body matches the gorgonian stem. Two colour morphs exist – pale grey or purple individuals scattered with pink or red tubercles are found on the similarly coloured gorgonian coral Muricella plectana, and yellow individuals with orange tubercles are found on gorgonian coral Muricella paraplectana. It is not known whether individuals can change colour if they change hosts, although the ability to change colour according to their surroundings does exist in some other seahorse species, such as H. whitei. Other distinctive characteristics include a fleshy head and body, a very short snout, and a long, prehensile tail. This is also one of the smallest seahorse species in the world, typically measuring less than 2 cm in height. The male carries eggs and young concealed within the trunk region.
Known from coral reefs in the tropical western Pacific around Australia (Queensland), Indonesia, Japan, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.
Very little is known about the ecology of this species. It is one of the smallest seahorse species, measuring less than 2 cm in height (Lourie et al. 1999). It has a specific habitat, being found only on gorgonian corals Muricella plectana (Gomon 1997, Tackett and Tackett 1997, Whitley 1970) at depths ranging from 16–40 m (Tackett and Tackett 1997). Hippocampus bargibanti appears to form pairs and may be monogamous.
There are no published data about population trends or total numbers of mature animals for this species. There is very little available information about its extent of occurrence or its area of occupancy. There have been no quantitative analyses examining the probability of extinction of this species. As a result, we have insufficient data to properly assess the species against any of the IUCN criteria, and propose a listing of data deficient.
Very little is known about the total number of pygmy seahorses, population trends, distribution, or major threats. It has therefore been classified as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List 2006. Because of the unusual and attractive colouration of this small seahorse it is possible that it could be being collected for the aquaria trade, although no international trade in the species has been recorded.
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