|Image: Rita Bellinger|
Sometimes showbiz is like hospital and serial killer fans; they're only interested if you're sick.
|Image: Asbjørn Hansen|
Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis
It doesn't get more fancy than that! This is a gold leaf book title. It's wearing a cape and an unnecessarily tall hat with a feather in. Probably a cherry, too.
All of which is in stark contrast to the featured Pipefish themselves!
|Image: Hans Hillewaert|
Greater Pipefish (Syngnathus acus)
Syngnathus means "fused jaw", referring to the fact that Pipefish have a pipe sticking out of their face. Their tiny, toothless mouth is at the end of this long snout, so that's one deformity they were unable to escape. There can be no chewing, biting or gnashing of teeth with such an arrangement; Pipefish can only slurp up the tiniest of crustaceans, fish eggs and minute, baby fish.
|Image: Eric Heupel|
Northern Pipefish (Syngnathus fuscus)
- The genus name lends itself to the whole Pipefish group; they're all members of the subfamily Syngnathinae.
- With the Seahorses they make up the family Syngnathidae.
- Add in a whole bunch of other strange fish with fused jaws and you have the order Syngnathiformes, which I guess basically means "Pipefish type things".
|Image: Kevin Bryant|
Chain Pipefish (Syngnathus louisianae)
The River Pipefish is also brown, so let's go to a coral reef or something! It's Summer! It's hot! And I've gone all strange in the brain!
|Image: Andreas März|
Bluestripe Pipefish (Doryrhamphus excisus)
|Image: Asbjørn Hansen|
Snake Pipefish (Entelurus aequorus)
They're a bit rubbish at swimming, too. Most of the work is done by fluttering a rather inadequate dorsal fin and there's not much in the way of mighty sweeps and swipes of a powerful tail fin that other fish use so well. A lot of Pipefish do have a tail fin, but its puny!
Banded Pipefish (Dunckerocampus dactyliophorus)
Some Pipefish have larger tail fins than the norm and they seem to be extremely proud of it! It's very colourful and eye-catching, so their bearers are known as Flagtail Pipefish.
|Image: ken tam|
Red-stripe Pipefish (Dunckerocampus baldwini)
A lot of them live among plants or coral and they often swim just above the floor, more like a snake than an ocean-faring fish.
Mushroom Coral Pipefish (Siokunichthys nigrolineatus)
Some Pipefish have given up on all that swimming malarkey and have exchanged a tiny tail fin for a cool, prehensile tail. It lets them grab hold of plant stems and relax while those Flagtail nutters are whizzing around showing off.
|Image: Nick Hobgood|
Short-pouch Pygmy Pipehorse (Acentronura breviperula)
When you're a fish in the sea who isn't too good at swimming, camouflage is your friend. Also poison, but we'll leave that for another day and another fish.
|Image: Bernard DUPONT|
Ornate Pipefish (Halicampus macrorhynchus)
|Image: Claudine Lamothe|
Ribboned Pipefish (Haliichthys taeniophorus)
Leafy Seadragon (Phycodurus eques)
This diversity can also be seen in Pipefish mating habits. Some are monogamous and go through the kind of courtship dance Seahorses do. They might even defend a territory together. In others, the female may mate with several males, or the male with several females. Sometimes females compete with other females for the best males, or males fight for females. Perhaps both. It's quite human, in other words: a mess.
One thing is non-negotiable - it's always the male who looks after the eggs.
|Image: Klaus Stiefel|
Male Banded Pipefish (Dunckerocampus dactyliophorus) with brood patch covered in eggs
Male Black-breasted Pipefish (Corythoichthys nigripectus) with brood pouch full of eggs
The thing is, Pipefish don't always wait until the eggs hatch before they think of their progeny as food...
Video: nature video
Male Pipefish like BIG
This doesn't mean that he refuses to mate with smaller females, he just won't look after the eggs so well. He has enough control over his brood patch that he can deny some of them nutrients. He can even reverse the process and absorb nutrient from the eggs, basically eating his own unborn children because their mother wasn't good enough.
This research was done on just one (brown) species, the Gulf Pipefish (Syngnathus scovelli), so while we mustn't jump to unwarranted conclusions, it does provide compelling evidence for the sick, twisted and evil nature of the Seahorse. At the very least it provides a different spin on that charming, daily ritual where the female meets up with her mate every morning to renew their vows through the medium of dance. Just checking how things are going...
Pipefish rests on brain of latest victim
Big thanks to Dear Reader Henderson for suggesting both the Coelacanth and the Leafy Seadragon. I ended up spinning them out into a whole bunch of posts from Lamprey and Seahorse and they sort of met up again in this post, which is cool.
I had no idea Seahorses had so many weird relatives!