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In the sea around Milaidhoo our divers regularly find something interesting and fun to see but it is not always the big guys like sharks, turtles or rays that make them stop and stare.
Recently they had a very rare and special encounter at our Milaidhoo Wall: a Halimeda ghost pipefish (Solenostomus halimeda). These are tiny fish and masters of disguise and not easy to spot at all.
Ghost pipefishes are named after their skill to blend in with the habitat they are used to. The Halimeda ghost pipefish floats almost motionless, face downwards near algae of the Halimeda family, a coralline algae with round calcareous leaves. With a maximum length of 6.5cm it is one of the smallest ghost Pipefishes.
Ghost pipefish are closely related to seahorses and belong to the order of Syngnathiformes, which means their snout is formed like a tube with which they can suck in tiny crustaceans.
Only a few species of ghost pipefishes have been described in the past and all of them were found in the Indo-Pacific region. They are a benthic species, meaning they live close to the ground, until they settle in a sheltered reef or lagoon to breed. You will only find them during a short period of time as they die after they have reproduced. Unlike seahorses and other pipefishes, female ghost pipefishes have transformed their pelvic fins into a breeding pouch in which they store the fertilised eggs until they hatch.
For your next excursion to the Milaidhoo Wall, keep an eye out for light green, upside down dangling seahorses and tick the Halimeda ghost pipefish off your rare find list.