Given its superb camouflage and small size (up to about 5 cm = 2 in), it’s a wonder that this creature was ever discovered at all.
A sharp-eyed underwater photographer spotted it off the east coast of Australia in 1997. The Sydney Pygmy Pipehorse, Idiotropiscis lumnitzeri, lives on rocky reefs covered with red algae in coastal marine waters 6–30 metres (20–100 ft) deep.1,2
Its skin has a very useful feature aiding camouflage—it attracts algal growth. The resulting colour mixture is extremely variable with specimens ranging from white to red to green to brown. The amount and colour of algal protuberances on an individual Sydney Pygmy Pipehorse’s skin tend to match the algal covering on the reef where it lives. Consequently, scuba divers report that these creatures’ stunningly “cryptic colouration”1 enables them to blend so well into their habitat that they are “almost impossible to find” during the day.2 At night, the glare from divers’ lights shows the pygmy pipehorses perching high on the reef algae. They eat small crustaceans foraging on the algae.
The Sydney Pygmy Pipehorse is classified with other pipehorses in the family Syngnathidae (Greek: ‘together-jawed’, which relates to their tube-snouted mouths), along with seahorses and sea dragons. Like most members of the Syngnathidae, pygmy pipehorses have a horizontal posture—seahorses being the exception, adopting an upright posture. Pygmy pipehorses are actually “morphologically very similar to seahorses”,3 i.e. in form—the postural difference is associated with the pygmy pipehorse head being at a slightly smaller angle to the body than in a seahorse. Therefore evolutionists have suggested that pygmy pipehorses are a ‘surviving evolutionary link’ between the vertically-swimming seahorses and other members of the Syngnathidae family.3….
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