Creature Feature: Pontohi Pygmy Seahorse
The Pygmy Seahorses are without doubt among the most attractive critters – they are cryptic, hard to find but yet beautiful. And for a lot of divers the Pontohi Pygmy Seahorse (Hippocampus pontohi or Weedy Pygmy Seahorse) is even more special than other Pygmy Seahorses.
The Pontohi Pygmy Seahorse was first seen in 2003 in Bunaken (by a local guide named Hence Pontoh) and officially described in 2008 – so it is a rather recently discovered species. No wonder, as the Pontohi is not as “easy” to find as other Pygmy Seahorses. While other Pygmies prefer specific hosts (like the hippocampus bargibanti for example likes the muricella seafan), the Pontohi hangs out in between small halimeda algae and hydroids – which means basicly everywhere along walls and rocks 😉 So looking for a Hippocampus pontohi means screening more area than just checking specific seafans.
The Pontohi grows to about 1 cm in size, lives mostly in pairs and comes in two general colour variations: White-Yellow with some red and Brown-Black with some red. The pontohi mimics dead halimeda leafs and therefor likes to turn his body with the surge – which makes it hard at times to take pictures of it. The Pontohi can be found in between 1 and 25 meters depth.
Best Places to see Pontohi Pygmy Seahorses in Lembeh Strait: Nudi Retreat 1-3, Angel’s Window, California Dreaming, Batu Sandar, Tanjung Tebal, Tanjung Kubur, Nudi Falls.
Photo Tips: Use a 100mm Macro or longer – please do not attempt to photograph Pontohis with a 60mm Macro, as they live on the walls and you will have to go so close that your camera and strobes will damage the reef. Consider also to use a Teleconverter or Diopter with the 100mm. Try shooting Pontohis only when there is not much surge or choose deeper living specimens – as they will move less. Try manual focus.