Spot the orange pygmy seahorse

December 5, 2015 • 1:15 pm

by Matthew Cobb

This brief video shows the amazing camouflage of this tiny fish (yes, seahorses are fish; what else would they be?), and explores how scientists have been studying their reproduction and growth.

JAC: This is one way to determine whether a trait (yellow color) is hardwired genetically, or is simply part of the organism’s “norm of reaction”—in  this case an evolved developmental program which can code for different but still adaptive outcomes in different environments (in this case, different color and ornamentation). It would be a nice experiment to rear the babies in a variety of different backgrounds, just to see how different they can become. It’s possible that, like octopuses, they can match a whole panoply of different substrates.

One issue: The video implies that the tubercles grown by the baby seahorses on purple sea fans matched the bumps on those sea fans. But I don’t see any difference in the shape of the tubercles induced by living on orange vs. purple sea fans. Maybe I’m wrong, but the video implies that mimicry can affect not only color, but tubercle shape.

h/t Simon Singh

15 thoughts on “Spot the orange pygmy seahorse

  1. So Cute! It must be weird living in a place that looks like you and all your friends. I imagine it’s like living on/in a house made out of humans. Then they may think I’m weird for having no camouflage.

    Their eyes are the only way I could spot them. Are there any animals that have camouflaged eyes, not just the lids?

    1. Are there any animals that have camouflaged eyes, not just the lids?

      Chameleons? Not that their eyes have what we’d call “lids”, AFAICT.

  2. From the way they phrased it, I read that the tubercules “matched the substrate,” which could be by shape, colour or spacing, not just by shape. Simply matching the spacing would be relatively labile, wouldn’t it?

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