With their tiny tails wrapped around pieces of coral, a group of baby Bargibat’s Pygmy Sea Horses at the Steinhart Aquarium are among the first of this species to be hatched and cared for in an aquarium.
Less than an inch long, Bargibat’s Pygmy Sea Horses spend their entire adult lives attached to a species of coral known as a sea fan (Murciella paraplectana). The sea fan is the reason that these fish are rarely found in captivity – the conditions for maintaining the coral in an aquarium are challenging, because it only feeds on plankton. The color and texture of the adult Pygmy Sea Horses matches those of the sea fan so closely that the Pygmy Sea Horses are nearly impossible to see. Babies begin life with more drab coloration.
Biologists Richard Ross and Matt Wandell, who care for and study the Pygmy Sea Horses, have observed the adults engaging in a mating ritual that involves rubbing snouts and bumping heads. The female lays her eggs in the male’s belly sac. He then fertilizes and incubates the eggs for 14 days. About 60 to 70 babies result from each breeding cycle.
There are eight known species of Pygmy Sea Horses. They are found in the Pacific Ocean near Australia, the Phillippines, and nearby islands.
See more phtos of these aquatic wonders below.