My scientific publication on the habitat specialisation and population structure of gorgonian-associated pygmy seahorses has just been published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series (Link to the MEPS page):
Smith RE, Grutter AS & Tibbetts IR (2012). Extreme habitat specialisation and population structure of two gorgonian-associated pygmy seahorses. Marine Ecology Progress Series 444: 195-206
The study was conducted on the two species of pygmy seahorse, Bargibant’s (Hippocampus bargibanti) and Denise’s species (H. denise), which require a living gorgonian coral for their survival. The main findings of my study are below in the paper’s abstract but I’ve also written some of the study’s important findings below.
– Bargibant’s (Hippocampus bargibanti) and Denise’s pygmy seahorses (H. denise) have some of the lowest densities of any unexploited seahorse populations studied thus far.
– Bargibant’s pygmy seahorse is an extreme habitat specialist, being found exclusively in association with a single genus of gorgonian coral, Muricella spp.
– Denise’s pygmy is a relative generalist as it is found in association with at least eight genera of gorgonian corals.
– It is possible to distinguish between male and female pygmy seahorses by examining the area at the base of the abdomen where males have a small slit-like opening to the brood pouch (figure b) and females have a raised, circular urinogential pore (figure a) (see image).
As part of my PhD research I visited a small resort in central Sulawesi. It is scarcely known to non-Italians, but an absolute gem. I was in search of the amazing Walea soft coral pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus waleananus), which is known only from the reefs of the Togian Islands.
The diving is outstanding, with some of the best hard coral I have seen and many interesting critters, including bumblebee shrimp, boxer crab, tiger shrimp, four species of pygmy seahorse and the rare Kyonemichthys rumengani found in abundance.
My article about the area is featured in the new issue (159) of Sport Diving magazine, available now throughout Australasia.
Sport Diver UK have just published the July issue of their monthly magazine, which contains my article ‘Cenderawasih Bay; Where Whale Sharks Roam’. This feature is about the month I spent aboard Dewi Nusantara in the mysterious and newly visited part of Indonesia on Papua’s north coast.
The absolute biggest, excuse the pun, draw here are the whale sharks that come to feed on donations given to them by local fishermen. I, however, was equally excited by the plethora of endemic creatures that make Cenderawasih their home. The article also delves into these other, lesser known, residents so check out the magazine in your local newsagent or the apple newsstand.
UltraMarine have just published their 40th issue, where I am please to have an article about the reefs of the Coral Triangle. The countries of Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and East Timor collectively make up the Coral Triangle, which is known as the centre of the world’s coral reef biodiversity. It is a fascinating area to dive and I hope this article impassions people to experience it for themselves and the will to protect it.
I was fortunate enough to return to Wakatobi Dive Resort last year for the first time since carrying out much of my PhD fieldwork there a couple of years before. This time, however, I went on a trip aboard their liveaboard, Pelagian. We sailed from the resort all the way to the island of Buton, just off the Sulawesi mainland. My adventures were published in Scuba Diver AustralAsia in issue one of 2013. They have recently updated their digital subscriptions too, so check out their website or the Apple Newstand for more information and back issues.
Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia is one of my favourite places in the world to dive. Actually, if I could only dive in one place for the rest of my life I think it would be Raja Ampat. I have been lucky enough to spend many months exploring this amazing area aboard Dewi Nusantara. In issue 38 of UltraMarine Magazine I explain why this area is so special and what is being done to protect it.
You can read the full article by FOLLOWING THIS LINK, but here is a little taster:
For a marine biologist, like myself, visiting the Raja Ampat islands of Indonesia is like a terrestrial biologist visiting the Galapagos Islands. This region is the evolutionary crucible of coral reef species for much of the Indo-Pacific. Even within the mega-diverse Coral Triangle, of Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Indonesia, Raja Ampat has been found to have the highest reef fish diversity of all……..read more here.