tiki iconRyan Photographic - Syngnathidae - Seahorses, pipefishes, seadragons


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Chordates

Invertebrates


Family Syngnathidae

My introduction to the family Syngnathidae came when I was an 18 year old in the wilds of Borneo. I spotted a tiny pipefish swimming in a rainforest stream. I was immediately entranced. I didn't see any more until I went to Fiji and started diving. I also researched -Fijian freshwater fish (sadly without an electric fishing machine) and reported two new pipefish records. Since that time I keep a keen eye out for these extraordinary animals.

Fishbase records 215 species in an amazing 52 genera - which suggests widescale divergent evolution or the prevalence of "splitters" amongst those who study these beasties. The Syngnathidae includes the well-known seahorses and sea dragons and also the lesser known pipefish and pipehorses. All share some characteristics - they typically have a long snout with a fused jaw and lack pelvic fins. They are also protected by bony armor. This helps prevent being eaten but does not lend itself to high speed locomotion. Seahorses swim mostly via a puny dorsal fin with turbo-charging from their pectorals when necessary. Seahorses, pipehorses and at least one of the sea dragons have a prehensile tail with which they anchor themselves to the substrate. Some of the seahorses are able to undergo color change and grow skin extensions to improve their camouflage.

In all of the syngnathids that have so far been studied the male carries the eggs - either in a pouch or in a ventral groove or slit (in male pygmy seahorses). After eggs have been transferred to the male, they are nourished in a fishy equivalent of a uterus - the male not only provides the eggs with oxygen but also some nutrients.

Pipefish and seahorses are used in Chinese traditional "medicine" and some researchers are concerned this could impact wild seahorse and pipefish populations. This is not a view shared by Rudie Kuiter whose extraordinary book Seahorses and their Relatives can be purchased here.

 

Acentronura breviperula Shortpouch pygmy pipehorse

Acentronura breviperula Shortpouch pygymy pipehorse Kri Eco, Raja Ampat

FISH 8062 Acentronura breviperula Shortpouch pygmy pipehorse Kri Eco, Raja Ampat.

Acentronura breviperula Shortpouch pygymy pipehorse Kri Eco, Raja Ampat

FISH 8036 Acentronura breviperula Shortpouch pygmy pipehorse Kri Eco, Raja Ampat.

Acentronura breviperula Shortpouch pygmy pipehorse Raja Ampat

FISH 0078 Acentronura breviperula Shortpouch pygmy pipehorse Raja Ampat.

Corythoichthys flavofasciatus Network pipefish

Network pipefish

Corythoichthys flavofasciatus Network pipefish color variant, Kadavu, Fiji.

Corythoichthys haematopterus Reeftop pipefish

Reeftop pipefish

FISH 0717 Corythoichthys haematopterus Reeftop pipefish, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Corythoichthys polynotatus Yellowspotted pipefish

Corythoichthys polynotatus, Yellowspotted pipefish, Lembeh Straits

FISH 6912 Corythoichthys polynotatus, Yellowspotted pipefish, Lembeh Straits.

Corythoichthys ocellatus Orange-spotted pipefish

orange-spotted pipefish

FISH 1798 Corythoichthys ocellatus Orange-spotted pipefish. Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Corythoichthys sp. 1

Pipefish on octocoral. Sulawesi. Help with identification please!

Corythoichthys sp. 2 of Kuiter 2009, White-faced pipefish

whitefaced pipefish

FISH 3635 Corythoichthys sp. 2 of Kuiter 2009, White-faced pipefish, Kadavu, Fiji.

white-faced pipefish

FISH 3627 Corythoichthys sp. 2 of Kuiter 2009, White-faced pipefish, Kadavu, Fiji.

Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus Ringed pipefish

ringed pipefish with eggs

FISH 3910 Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus Ringed pipefish, male with eggs. Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

ringed pipefish with eggs

FISH 3896 Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus Ringed pipefish, male with eggs. Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

ringed piepfish with eggs

FISH 3901 Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus Ringed pipefish,close-up of eggs. Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus Ringed pipefish Kri Eco, Raja Ampa

FISH 7911 Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus Ringed pipefish Kri Eco, Raja Ampat.

Hippocampus abdominalis Bigbelly seahorse

Bigbelly seahorse Hippocampus abdominalis pregnant male. Found in both Australia and New Zealand

Hippocampus abdominalis bigbelly seahorse found in Australia and New Zealand

Hippocampus barbouri Zebra-snout seahorse

Hippocampus barbouri Zebra-snout seagorse, Puerto galera, Philippines

FISH 4887 Hippocampus barbouri Zebra-snout seahorse, Puerto Ggalera, Philippines.

Hippocampus bargibanti Pygmy seahorse

Hippocampus bargibanti pygmy seahorse. This animal, photographed in Indonesia, is about 20 mm long.

pygmy seahorse pair

FISH 2474 Hippocampus bargibanti, Pygmy seahorse pair, Kri Eco, West Papua.

vertical pygmy seahorse

FISH 1106. Hippocampus bargibanti, Pygmy seahorse vertical. Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

pygmy seahorse with finger to show size

FISH 0966 So just how small are Hippocampus bargibanti? Here's one with a divemaster's probe and a finger for comparison. Kri Eco, Raja Ampat.

yellowish pygmy bargibanti seahorse

FISH 3238 Hippocampus bargibanti, Pygmy seahorse, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Hippocampus bargibanti  Yellow pygmy seahorse Puerto Galera, Philippines

FISH 7131 Hippocampus bargibanti Yellow pygmy seahorse Puerto Galera, Philippines.

Hippocampus denise Denise's pygmy seahorse

denise's pygmy seahorse

FISH 3755 Denise's pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus denise, swimming. Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

denise's pygmy seahorse

FISH 3765 Denise's pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus denise. Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

vertical photo of denise's pygmy seahorse

FISH 3772 Denise's pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus denise. Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Hippocampus denise

FISH 3116. One of the world's smallest vertebrates Hippocampus denise, Denise's pygmy seahorse, are highly cryptic in their host seafans. Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

denise's pygmy seahorse

FISH 0297 Denise's pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus denise. Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Denise's pygmy seahorse on seafan

FISH 1432 Hippocampus denise, Denise's pygmy seahorse on seafan with open polyps. Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Hippocampus denise Pygmy seahorse, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat

FISH 7559 Hippocampus denise Pygmy seahorse, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat.

Hippocampus kuda Oceanic seahorse

Oceanic seahorse

FISH 0094 Hippocampus kuda, Oceanic seahorse. Captive.

Oceanic seahorse

FISH 0118 Hippocampus kuda, Oceanic seahorse. Captive.

Hippocampus pontohi Pontoh's pygmy seahorse

Pontoh's seahorse

FISH 1038 Hippocampus pontohi, Pontoh's seahorse. These fish are so tiny that a 1:1 macro is not sufficient for a big enough image. Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Pontoh's pygmy seahorse

FISH 2486 Hippocampus pontohi, Pontoh's seahorse. Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Two Pontoh's pygmy seahorses interacting

FISH 2488 Hippocampus pontohi, Pontoh's seahorse. Two individuals interacting. Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

tiny seahorse

FISH 3418 Probably Hippocampus pontohi but possibly an unidentified species. Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Hippocampus pontohi Pontoh's pygmy seahorse Raja Ampat

FISH 9352 Hippocampus pontohi Pontoh's pygmy seahorse Raja Ampat.

Hippocampus reidi Longsnout seahorse

longsnout seahorse

Hippocampus reidi, Longsnout seahorse, Glover's Reef, Belize. Image 1.

longsnout seahorse

Hippocampus reidi, Longsnout seahorse, Glover's Reef, Belize. Image 2.

Hippocampus taeniopterus? Common seahorse

Hippocampus taeniopterus, Common seahorse, Lembeh Straits

FISH 6759 Hippocampus taeniopterus? Common seahorse, Lembeh Straits.

Hippocampus taeniopterus? Common seahorse

FISH 6578 Hippocampus taeniopterus? Common seahorse, Lembeh Straits.

Hippocampus taeniopterus, Common seahorse, Lembeh Straits

FISH 6772 Hippocampus taeniopterus, Common seahorse, Lembeh Straits.

Phycodurus eques Leafy seadragon

leafy seadragon

Phycodurus eques Leafy seadragon (captive).

Phyllopteryx taeniolatus Weedy Seadragon

Phyllopteryx taeniolatus Weedy Seadragon, Flinders Pier PA202509

Phyllopteryx taeniolatus Weedy Seadragon, Flinders pier, Australia

Phyllopteryx taeniolatus Weedy Seadragon, Flinders Pier PA202458

Phyllopteryx taeniolatus Weedy Seadragon, Flinders Pier PA202458

Phyllopteryx taeniolatus Weedy Seadragon, Flinders Pier PA202492

Phyllopteryx taeniolatus Weedy Seadragon, Flinders Pier PA202492

Phyllopteryx taeniolatus Weedy Seadragon, Flinders Pier PA202484

Phyllopteryx taeniolatus Weedy Seadragon, Flinders Pier PA202484

Solegnathus spinosissimus Spiny seadragon

Solegnathus spinosissimus spiny seadragon, male carrying eggs. Milford Sound New Zealand depth 17 m

Solegnathus spinosissimus spiny seadragon. Photographed at 14 m in Milford Sound, New Zealand

Spiny seadragon Solegnathus spinosissimus. Close-up of male carrying eggs. Milford Sound, New Zealand. Depth 17 m.

Close-up of eggs on male Spiny seadragon Solegnathus spinosissimus

Solegnathus spinossissimus side detail

Close-up of side of spiny seadragon Solegnathus spinosissimus. Photographed in Milford Sound 14 m.

Solegnathus spinossissimus head shot

Solegnathus spinississimus head shot

Solegnathus spinossissimus three quarters

Solegnathus spinississimus three quarters

Prehensile tail of Solegnathus spinosissimus

Spiny seadragon Solegnathus spinosissimus photographed in Milford Sound in 17 m. Close-up head shot.

Unidentified pipefish

Morotai pipefish

Unidentified pipefish (approx 25 cm in length) Magic Bay, Rao, Halmahera

Fishes

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