VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Scientists said on Friday they have discovered the world's smallest seahorse, after realizing it was not simply the offspring of a species they already knew about.
The pygmy seahorse averages .64 inch in size, smaller than a fingernail, and lives in coral in the tropical waters of the western Pacific, according Sara Lourie, a McGill University biologist who led the identification project.
The orange marine animals had been seen before, but scientists had thought they were looking at the offspring of a larger type of seahorse, Lourie said.
The new species is a master of camouflage and that may have protected it from the over-exploitation threatening other types of seahorses, but Lourie said it still faces potential threats including underwater tourism.
"Divers and photographers could possibly love these animals to death," said Lourie, who is a member of Project Seahorse, an international effort to protect the animals from overfishing and habitat loss.
Before this discovery there were 32 known species of seahorses, but some scientists believe their could be as many as 50. The results of new study were published in the latest edition of Zoological Studies..