Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


Regional Maps

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CAAB: 37282120

Species Hippocampus abdominalis Lesson, 1827

Bigbelly Seahorse, Australian Pot-belly Seahorse, Big-bellied Sea-horse, Big-bellied Seahorse, Big-belly Seahorse, Eastern Potbelly Seahorse, Manaia, Pot-bellied Seahorse, Potbelly Seahorse


Generic Combinations



There has been considerable disagreement relating to synonymy within this species. Some authors (Kuiter 2001, 2008, Edgar 2008) treated the southern Australian species as H. bleekeri, distinct from the New Zealand and eastern Australian H. abdominalis. Subsequently Kuiter (2009) suggested that H. abdominalis was probably endemic to New Zealand and treated the eastern Australian form as cf. abdominalis. However, several genetic studies have not found major differences between these three forms (see Lourie et al 2016).




New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria

Extra Distribution Information

Newcastle, NSW (32°52'S) to Ceduna, SA (133°30'E), and south to Lune River, TAS (43°26'S); temperate, south-west Pacific (New Zealand).

IBRA and IMCRA regions (map not available)


Great Australian Bight Shelf Transition (32), Spencer Gulf Shelf Province (33), Western Bass Strait Shelf Transition (34), Bass Strait Shelf Province (35), Tasmanian Shelf Province (36), Southeast Shelf Transition (37), Central Eastern Shelf Province (38)

Ecological Descriptors

Continental shelf, estuary, inshore, rock reef.

Extra Ecological Information



General References

Armstrong, P. 2001. Genetic and Morphological Variation in Pot-bellied Seahorses (Hippocampus abdominalis): Is there evidence for two species? Unpublished B.Sc. (Hons.) thesis, University of Tasmania.

Dawson, C.E. 1994. Family Syngnathidae. pp. 440-475 figs 391-426 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs. [447]

Edgar, G.J. 2008. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Sydney : Reed New Holland 2nd edn, 624 pp. [482] (as Hippocampus abdominalis and H. bleekeri)

Foster, S.J. & Vincent, A.C.J. 2004. Life history and ecology of seahorses: implications for conservation and management. Journal of Fish Biology 65: 1-61

Gomon, M.F. 1997. A remarkable new pygmy seahorse (Syngnathidae Hippocampus) from south-eastern Australia, with a redescription of H. bargibanti Whitley from New Caledonia. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 56(1): 245-253 [246]

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp. [97]

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp. [74]

Kuiter, R.H. 2001. Revision of the Australian Seahorses of the genus Hippocampus (Syngnathiformes: Syngnathidae) with descriptions of nine new species. Records of the Australian Museum 53: 293-340 [322, 323] (as Hippocampus abdominalis and H. bleekeri)

Kuiter, R.H. 2008. Syngnathidae. pp. 448-479 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp. (as H. abdominalis and H. bleekeri)

Kuiter, R.H. 2009. Seahorses and their relatives. Seaford, Australia : Aquatic Photographics pp. 331. (as H. abdominalis and H. bleekeri)

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs.

Lourie, S.A. 2016. Seahorses. A life-size guide to every species. Chicago : The Unversity of Chicago Press 160 pp. [84]

Lourie, S.A., Foster, S.J., Cooper, E.W.T. & Vincent, A.C.J. 2004. A Guide to the Identification of Seahorses. Project Seahorse and TRAFFIC North America. Washington, D.C. Vancouver : University of British Columbia and World Wildlife Fund 114 pp. [22]

Lourie, S.A., Vincent, A.C.J. & Hall, H.J. 1999. Seahorses. An identification guide to the world's species and their conservation. Project Seahorse. x 214 pp. [69]

Martin-Smith, K.M. & Vincent, A.C.J. 2006. Exploitation and trade of Australian seahorses, pipehorses, sea dragons and pipefishes (Family Syngnathidae). Oryx 40: 141-151

McCulloch, A.R. 1929. A check-list of the fishes recorded from Australia. Part I. Memoirs of the Australian Museum 5: 1–144 [97] (as Hippocampus abdominalis, H. bleekeri and H. (Macleayina) agnesae)

Neira, F.J., Miskiewicz, A.G. & Trnski, T. 1998. Larvae of temperate Australian fishes: laboratory guide for larval fish identification. Nedlands, Western Australia : University of Western Australia press 474 pp.

Nickel, J. & Cursons, R. 2012. Genetic diversity and population structure of the pot-belly seahorse Hippocampus abdominalis in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 46(2): 207-218

Paxton, J.R., Gates, J.E., Hoese, D.F. & Bray, D.J. 2006. Syngnathidae. pp. 810-846 in Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & Allen, G.R. Fishes. In, Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Vol. 35. Volume 35 Australia : ABRS & CSIRO Publishing Parts 1-3, 2178 pp. [825, 826] (as Hippocampus abdominalis and H. bleekeri)

Paxton, J.R., Hoese, D.F., Allen, G.R. & Hanley, J.E. (eds) 1989. Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Pisces: Petromyzontidae to Carangidae. Canberra : Australian Government Publishing Service Vol. 7 665 pp. [421]

Pognoski, J.J., Pollard, D.A. & Paxton, J.R. 2002. Conservation Overview and Action Plan for Australian Threatened and Potentially Threatened Marine and Estuarine Fishes. Canberra : Environment Australia 375 pp.

Poortenaar, C.W., Woods, C.M.C., James, P.J., Giambartolomei, F.M. & Lokman, P.M. 2004. Reproductive biology of female big-bellied seahorses. Journal of Fish Biology 64: 717-725 [717]

Stewart, A.L. 2015. Families Syngnathidae, Aulostomidae, Fistulariidae, Macroramphosidae. pp. 1050-1072 in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 3 pp. 577-1152. [1055] (treated as endemic to New Zealand)

Wilson, A.B. & Martin-Smith, K.M. 2007. Genetic monogamy despite social promiscuity in the pot-bellied seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis). Molecular Ecology 16(11): 2345-2352 [2345]

Woods, C.M.C. 2000. Preliminary observations on breeding and rearing the seahorse Hippocampus abdominalis (Teleostei: Syngnathidae) in captivity. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 34: 475-485 [475]

Woods, C.M.C. 2002. Natural diet of the seahorse Hippocampus abdominalis. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 36: 655-660 [655]

Woods, C.M.C. 2005. Reproductive output of male seahorses, Hippocampus abdominalis, from Wellington Harbour, New Zealand: implications for conservation. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 39(4): 811-888 [811]

Woods, C.M.C., Morgan, S.K., Martin-Smith, K., Pogonoski, J.J., Paxton, J.R., Pollard, D.A. & Morgan, A.J. 2006. Hippocampus abdominalis. In: IUCN 2014. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. Version 2014.1..

Woods, C.M.C. & Martin-Smith, K.M. 2004. Visible Implant fluorescent Elastomer tagging of the big-bellied seahorse, Hippocampus abdominalis. Fisheries Research 66(3): 363-371 [363]


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
27-Jul-2017 SYNGNATHIFORMES 05-May-2017 MODIFIED Dr Doug Hoese Dr Matthew Lockett
25-Jun-2015 SYNGNATHIFORMES 08-Oct-2015 MODIFIED Dr Dianne Bray (NMV) Dr Doug Hoese (AM) Dr Matthew Lockett (AM)
27-Jul-2010 MODIFIED