Seahorses, Hippocampus spp., are small marine Bony Fish related to Pipefish, from which group they appear to have diverged during the Miocene, distinguished by having Horse-like heads, an upright posture, bony armour divided into segmented rings, prehensile tails, and the internal brooding off eggs by the males. They are found in shallow temperate and tropical seas around the world, favouring Seagrass beds, Mangrove forests, Coral reefs, and estuaries. The taxonomy of Seahorses is difficult, as the group is very morphologically conservative, with ichthyologists using traditional methods having suggested as few as two species, while modern genetic methods suggest there are probably more than fifty. Understanding Seahorse taxonomy is important, as many populations are threatened by Human activities, including habitat destruction, and collecting for use as food, traditional medicine, souvenirs and in aquariums, and it is difficult to establish proper conservation measures without knowing how what species individual populations belong to.
In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 31 October 2017, Sang-Yun Han and Jin-Koo Kim of the Department of Marine Biology at Pukyong National University, Yoshiaki Kai of the Maizuru Fisheries Research Station of Kyoto University, and Hiroshi Senou of the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History, describe a new species of Seahorse from Japan and Korea, described as part of a review of the Seahorse species found in these nations.
The new species is named Hippocampus haema, where 'haema' is the Korean word for 'Seahorse'. It has 10 body segments plus 35-38 tail segments, double gill-openings and a high, backwards-swept crown, and is highly variable on colour, with observed individuals being black, white, orange, yellow, magenta, claret, brown, or grey with black, red, or white stripes. The smallest sexually mature male specimen found measures 59.3 mm in length, the largest specimen found measured 100.3 mm. The species was found along the southern and southeastern coasts of the Korean Peninsula, the western coast of Kyushu and northwestern coast of Honshu, in floating Sargassum and weeds on shallow soft bottom habitats, at depths of up to 18 m.
Hippocampus haema, (A) colouration of fresh specimen, (B) X-radiograph; a' indicates the anterior coronet spine; 5' indicates the posterior coronet spine (the 5th tip on the corona); the first (1) and last (10 or 11) trunk rings are marked. Han et al. (2017).
Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.