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).