The World Beneath

The Life and Times of Unknown Sea Creatures and Coral Reefs

by Dr Richard Smith

Meet the sea’s most fascinating creatures—see the lives and curiosities of charmers and tricksters—many newly identified and some on the verge of extinction.

From one of the world’s premier marine biologists, an award-winning underwater photographer, and a leading expert on seahorses, comes a spectacular guide to hundreds of the ocean’s fishes and coral reefs.

In this richly informative volume, brimming with new discoveries and more than three hundred colorful images, you’ll swim in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans; you’ll be dazzled in the Coral Triangle and amazed in Triton Bay. Up close you’ll meet the Cenderawasih fairy wrasse, with its florescent yellow streak; the polka-dot longnose filefish; and the multicolored seadragon. There are scarlet-colored corals, baby-blue sponges, daffodil crinoids, and all sorts of mystifying creatures that change color at the drop of a hat. The whale shark is almost larger than life and the author’s beloved pygmy seahorse, unless photographed, is almost too tiny to see.

The wondrous creatures inside excel in the arts of seduction and deception, and you’ll have the rare chance to see and delight in their antics. You’ll also learn what they eat, how they play, and how they care for one another, live on one another, and mimic others when they’re afraid. There is also compelling insight into the naming process, which creatures are facing extinction, and how we can help them before it’s too late.

The World Beneath‘ is available on Amazon around the world and all good book shops, follow the links below for Amazon USA/UK

#1 BEST SELLER on in Oceanography, Marine Biology, Nature & Wildlife Photography, Zoology, Endangered Species, Ecology of Oceans & Seas, Ichthyology, Nature & Ecology, Coral Reef Ecosystems & Underwater Photography books

The World Beneath has over 400 5* star ratings on Amazon!

The book is published by Apollo Publishers in the United States.  It is a hardcover with 312 pages, and over 300 colour images all taken by Richard.


The secret world of pygmy seahorses, where males give birth – photo essay by Dr Richard Smith


Read More Here…

The extraordinary sex lives of pygmy seahorses, from courtship dances to fights – Interview with Dr Richard Smith


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Big Little Lives – Article by Dr Richard Smith

Oceanographic Magazine

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New pygmy seahorse discovered, first of its kind in Africa

National Geographic

Read More Here…


If you want to understand the majesty and perils of coral reefs at the beginning of the 21st century read this book—a crisp, concise and most entertaining look at one of the Earth’s greatest natural histories, painted with a clear contemporary eye.

Ned DeLoach

Publisher, Underwater Photographer & Naturalist

THIS GUIDE IS not just a tangible thing of beauty but also an enduring record built on proven knowledge, dedication and skill … we did find ourselves returning to re-read sections describing particular reef habitats several times such was their beautifully detailed depiction.

UltraMarine Magazine

IN THIS IMPRESSIVE work, Smith effectively showcases much of what the marine world has to offer, while also reminding audiences how important it is to preserve and protect that world.
Read full review here…

Publisher's Weekly

THE FASCINATING STORY of the pygmy seahorses, most of which were only discovered in the last 20 years, is understandably close to his heart considering his involvement, and his excitement about them is highly infectious, especially when accompanied by such lovely photographs of these endearing little beasts.

I hope it will encourage more people to be as passionate as the author about an environment increasingly threatened by human activity

Read full review here…

James Maclaine, Senior Curator (Fish), Natural History Museum, London - for The Linnean Society of London

IT’S OFTEN HARD for an expert to communicate effectively with a layman, but Richard Smith manages the tightrope act with aplomb, revealing secrets of coral reefs and some of their smaller, less well-known inhabitants in this fascinating and accessible book. For a diver, it’s one of those rare books, like ‘What a Fish Knows’ that will considerably enhance your understanding and appreciation of what you are looking at as you swim along and add hugely to your enjoyment of our wonderful sport.
Read more here…

Simon Pridmore, X-Ray Magazine

ANOTHER BOOK ABOUT the wonders of fish and coral? Ho- hum, a picture has already formed in your head. We’ve been there before – so many times.

But wait, this one is different. Very different. Instead of the usual worthy but dull plod through every half-familiar aspect of coral from Acropora to zooxanthellae, illustrated by endless general reef shots unlinked to the text, this book by Dr Richard Smith is a surprise-filled delight from start to finish.

Diver Magazine

Upcoming events

– REEF Fest Key Largo, Florida :: 13-16th October 2022 – More information…


KORALLE & CO.: Überlebensstrategien der Unterwasserwelt

‘The World Beneath’ is now available in a German version called ‘Koralle & Co.’

Reviews for Koralle & Co.:

“Einige der Tiere sehen regelrecht unwirklich aus, und ich empfand es als ungeheuer spannend und bereichernd, diese mir bisher eher unbekannte Welt der Korallenriffe zu entdecken.” Link

“Weil der Autor klug ist, weiß er, dass mit dem drohenden Zeigefinger wenig auszurichten ist. Und so zieht er es vor, mit dem Aufzeigen der Schönheiten, die wir durch unbedachtes Handeln verlieren, zu überzeugen. Und zu begeistern.” Link

I had the privilege to be presenting alongside Richard Smith on the inaugural Underwater Tour through four Australian cities in 2018. Richard’s engaging stories about his pygmy seahorse research and experience of life underwater in the coral reefs of Asia had me enthused and entertained. In his book “The World Beneath”, Richard regales of his underwater adventures. He intertwines natural history with personal experiences of the marine world in great detail. Richard’s narrative accompanied with his stunning images of beautiful coral reefs and marine life will definitely entice new divers to join in, to experience this beautiful marine world as Richard has wonderfully shared in this beautiful book.

Jürgen Freund

Underwater Photographer & Senior Fellow, International League of Conservation Photographers

About the author

Dr. Richard Smith is a marine biologist and conservationist, an award-winning underwater photographer and videographer, an acclaimed public speaker, and the leader of diving expeditions around the world; he’s been on more than thirty-five hundred dives since 1996. Dr. Smith has written hundreds of articles, published internationally with a primary focus on conservation, marine life, and travel. His photographs have been featured around the world, including on dozens of magazine covers and in exhibitions. In 2018, he identified a new species of pygmy seahorse, having first photographed it five years previously. The new species, Hippocampus japapigu, is the size of a grain of rice and from the temperate waters of Japan. Dr. Smith has a bachelor’s degree in Zoology, a master’s degree in Marine Ecology and Evolution, and a PhD that he received for his pioneering research on pygmy seahorses; it was the first PhD ever awarded for the subject. Dr. Smith is a member of the IUCN Seahorse, Pipefish and Seadragon Specialist Group, and the world authority on these fishes, and the Global Pygmy Seahorse Expert for, which uses citizen science to further research and conservation. He lives in the Cotswolds, England.

Dr Richard Smith - Marine Biologist

Packed with [more than 300] vibrant images of sea life large and small, scientist and photographer Smith’s volume is a splendid and thorough look beneath the surface of the ocean. Expressing his ‘passion and wonder for coral reefs and the astounding variety of creatures that call them home,’ Smith relates that, over the course of an extensive career in marine biology, he has ‘seen fish that wouldn’t even stretch across a dime and others that are longer than two London buses’ . . . . [An] impressive work.

Publisher's Weekly

An excerpt from my original piece for The Scientist:

“In 2002, when I saw my first pygmy seahorses on the coral reefs of Komodo, Indonesia, there was just one named species (Hippocampus bargibanti). Now there are seven, and I am working on describing another—the first from the Indian Ocean.”

Read the full article here… or image gallery here

Read an interview about me for The Scientist here…


An excerpt from my original piece for Oceanographic:

“I have long-been fascinated by the natural world, so the career I have forged is a dream come true. Combining natural history observation, with underwater photography and the science of marine biology allows me to really see coral reefs and their inhabitants in a different light.”

Read the full article here…

Please contact me for press enquiries

Past events

Launch event: A sell-out launch for ‘The World Beneath‘ was held at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC on September 10th.

The hour-long presentation with Q&A was followed by a signing. Thanks to everyone who came along to learn about our planet’s amazing marine creatures.

Author event: Book Passage Book Shop, 1 Ferry Building Ste 42, San Fransisco, CA, USA. Monday 23rd September 6-730pm 2019.

Author Event at the renowned Book Passage Ferry Building on the San Fransisco Wharf front. Join Richard to hear about his underwater adventures and some of the fascinating amazing underwater creatures he’s studied.

– Go Diving Show, Coventry, UK :: 12.10-12.40pm Photo Stage 22nd February 2020

– Linnean Society – Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, UK :: 12.30pm 4th March 2020

– Burford Literary Festival, Cotswolds UK :: September 2021


“The World Beneath” mentioned in National Geographic feature about the discovery of Hippocampus nalu. Read more here…

National Geographic

New Book “The World Beneath” Shines Light on Lesser-Known Sea Creatures
Read more here…

Sport Diver Magazine

5 Star Review:

…what photographs!! Stunning, jaw-dropping “wow” for some of the tiniest creatures in that world beneath. Dr. Smith is an incredible photographer. 
Read full review here…

Jim Razihna