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Pygmy Seahorses: Masters of Camouflage | Deep Look

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 Biology   |   Environmental   |   Science
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Tiny and delicate, pygmy seahorses survive by attaching to vibrant corals where they become nearly invisible to both predators and researchers. Now, biologists at the California Academy of Sciences have successfully bred them in captivity for the first time. Finally, they're able to study the seahorses' amazing act of camouflage up close.

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DEEP LOOK: a new ultra-HD (4K) short video series created by KQED San Francisco and presented by PBS Digital Studios. See the unseen at the very edge of our visible world. Get a new perspective on our place in the universe and meet extraordinary new friends. Explore big scientific mysteries by going incredibly small.

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Over the summer, biologists from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco returned from an expedition to the Philippines with some very rare and diminutive guests, a mating pair of pygmy seahorses.

Pygmy seahorses live their entire adult lives attached to a type of coral called a Gorgonian sea fan. The seahorses use their long tails to grab on to the delicately branched sea fans. But what’s really amazing is their ability to match the coral’s bright color and knobby texture. They blend in so perfectly that they are barely visible, even to a trained eye.

Pygmy seahorses are nearly impossible to raise in captivity. Until recently, there was no record of the seahorses ever living long enough to breed in an aquarium. As a result, very little is known about them, making them extremely attractive to researchers eager to learn about the mysterious species.

The Gorgonian sea fan is itself an animal, distantly related to jellyfish and anemones, and is very difficult to raise in tanks. But these seahorses cannot live without the them.

How do seahorses mate?

They do a courtship dance during which the female puts her eggs in the males brood pouch.

How do seahorses give birth?

Like other seahorses, it is the male pygmy that rears the offspring in his brood pouch, releasing groups of offspring every two weeks.

Check out an additional video from the Cal Academy: http://goo.gl/QhAf0T

Find out more about pygmy seahorses:

http://blogs.kqed.org/science/2014/10/21/pygmy-seahorses-masters-of-camouflage/

Created by KQED Public Media in San Francisco and presented by PBS Digital Studios.

Funding for Deep Look is provided in part by PBS Digital Studios and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Deep Look is a project of KQED Science, which is supported by HopeLab, The David B. Gold Foundation; S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation; The Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation; The Vadasz Family Foundation; Smart Family Foundation and the members of KQED.

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