Vets have successfully performed microsurgery on a tiny seahorse that had its internal organs growing outside its body.
The seahorse was successfully operated on by specialist at the Aquarium Finisterrae in the city of A Coruna in the north-western Spanish region of Galicia.
Noelia de Castro, who was in charge of the delicate procedure, told Metropolitan Press that they realised the seahorse had a birth defect in May.
The big-belly seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis) was in a breeding tank until it was big enough to be exhibited when vets noticed the external organs.
De Castro said the seahorse, born in 2019, was “tiny, much smaller than the others in the tank”, and it was difficult to detect the malformation.
She added that the seahorse’s internal organs were growing outside its body due to a birth defect, and was at risk of contracting infections from the water.
De Castro told Metropolitan Press: “The seahorse underwent two surgeries. The first one was the most difficult.”
She said that vets put the seahorse to sleep with an anaesthetic before inserting its entrails inside its body and closing it up.
De Castro explained: “It was so small the most difficult part was identifying the right spot to do the surgery.”
She added that the seahorse was only eight centimetres (3.1 inches) long and that others grow to be around 35 centimetres (13.7 inches) when adult.
They checked the seahorse had recovered three weeks later, and it was found to be moving normally and eating well.
The marine fish then underwent another operation to remove the tiny stitches and it joined the rest of the group in the tank when it had fully recovered.
De Castro told Real Press: “In nature, these kinds of animals (with malformations) have less chance of survival, but in aquariums like this we can give them a better chance.
“Our job is to give them the same chance as any other animal, no matter their size, and to give them a good life.”
De Castro also explained that it was the first time the aquarium had encountered a situation like this. Male seahorses sometimes suffer a brood pouch prolapse after giving birth, but this case “was a birth malformation”.
The tiny seahorse was named Hercules after the aquarium asked netizens for suggestions.