South African Pygmy Seahorse – Hippocampus nalu

South African pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus nalu)

In October 2018, my colleague from the IUCN Seahorse, Pipefish and Seadragon Specialist Group, Dr Louw Claassens, and I visited the remote northeastern corner of South Africa in search of a possible new species. Louw, the director of the Knysna Basin Project, is based in Knysna in the south of South Africa. She had visited the area several months before with another of our colleagues, Dr Dave Harasti in search of a different new species. Sadly, bad weather prevented them from getting in the water, but they were shown a picture of a fish they didn’t recognised by local diver Savannah Nalu Olivier, which is when they contacted me.

Immediately, I recognised the image as a pygmy seahorse, but knew that a pygmy had never been recorded from the Indian Ocean before. It was the equivalent of finding a kangaroo in Norway! I immediately began planning a trip and a few months later, Louw and I were in Sodwana Bay and ready to go hunting. We joined up with Savannah, who had been watching these tiny fish for some time and was vital in the process.

We managed to find several of the small fishes, hidden amongst tiny algal fronds. I even managed to find a tiny baby, just 1 cm long!

We have since been working with colleagues from around the world to name this new species as the Sodwana Pygmy Seahorse or South African pygmy seahorse – Hippocampus nalu. The name is in recognition of Savannah, who first brought this amazing fish to our attention.


* Please contact me for press use of images.

Hippocampus nalu press release.


– Along with some colleagues, I published the scientific description (formal naming) of this species in May 2020:

Short G, Claassens L, Smith R, De Brauwer M, Hamilton H, Stat M, Harasti D,  (2020). Hippocampus nalu, a new species of pygmy seahorse from South Africa, and the first record from the Indian Ocean (Teleostei, Syngnathidae). ZooKeys. LINK

My new book ‘The World Beneath‘ includes a chapter about my pygmy seahorse research and more about the Sodwana pygmy seahorse. MORE HERE

Hippocampus nalu - South African pygmy seahorse, Sodwana Bay

Hippocampus nalu – South African pygmy seahorse, Sodwana Bay

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