Is This the World's Smallest Seahorse?

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Though it's impossible to predict the conservation status of the new species without estimating population sizes and rates of decline, said Lourie, it is known that 46 percent of the reefs around Indonesia are classified as highly threatened. Habitat destruction, and overfishing for use in traditional Chinese medicine, are the biggest threats to seahorses, she said. Project Seahorse most recently estimates that total global consumption of seahorses is 20 million or more annually, she added.

"Many time people identify a new species and six months later it's reclassified as something else," said Juan Romero Director of Animal Husbandry at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, England. "This absolutely appears to be a new species, which hasn't been seen before, because it's so small." However, Kuiter has some nagging doubts that these specimens are H.bargibanti juveniles. Juveniles often look very different to adults, and seahorses can reproduce before fully grown, said Kuiter. Analysis of DNA samples is needed to confirm the classification, he said.

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