AskDefine | Define pipefish

Dictionary Definition

pipefish n : fish with long tubular snout and slim body covered with bony plates [syn: needlefish] [also: pipefishes (pl)]

Extensive Definition

Pipefish (Syngnathidae) are small fish, which with the seahorses, form a distinct family. Pipefish look like straight-bodied seahorses with tiny mouths.
The name is derived from the peculiar form of their snout, which is like a long tube, ending in narrow and small mouth which opens upwards and is toothless. The body and tail are long, thin, and snake-like. They have a highly modified skeleton formed into armored plating. This dermal skeleton has several longitudinal ridges, so that a vertical section through the body looks angular, not round or oval as in the majority of other fishes. A dorsal fin is always present, and is the principal (in some species, the only) organ of locomotion. The ventral fins are constantly absent, and the other fins may or may not be developed. The gill-openings are extremely small and placed near the upper posterior angle of the gill-cover. Most of the pipe-fishes are marine, only a few being freshwater. Pipe-fishes are abundant on coasts of the tropical and temperate zones. Most species of pipefish are less than 20cm in length and generally inhabit sheltered areas in coral reefs, seagrass beds and sandy lagoons.
Many are very weak swimmers in open water, moving slowly by means of rapid movements of the dorsal fin. Some species of pipefish have tails that are prehensile as in seahorses. The majority of pipefishes have some form of a caudal fin (unlike seahorses), which can be used for locomotion. There are species of pipefish with more developed caudal fins, such as the group collectively known as flag-tail pipefish, are quite strong swimmers.
There are approximately 200 species of pipefish.


Pipefish, like their seahorse relatives, leave most of the parenting duties to the males. Courtship tends to be elaborately choreographed displays between the males and females. Pair bonding varies wildly between different species of pipefish. While some are monogamous or seasonally monogamous, others are quite gregarious. Many species exhibit polyandry, a breeding system in which one female mates with two or more males, and are thus sex-role reversed. This occurs because males invest more energy in the offspring than do females, as a result of male pregnancy. This tends to occur with greater frequency in internal brooding species of pipefish than with external brooding species.
Male pipefish have a specially developed area to carry eggs, which are deposited by the female pipefish. In some species this is just a patch of spongy skin that the eggs adhere to until hatching. Other species have a partial or even fully developed pouch to carry the eggs. The location of the brood patch or pouch can be along the entire underside of the pipefish or just at the base of the tail, as with seahorses.
Young are born freeswimming with relatively little or no yolk sac, and begin feeding immediately. From the time they hatch they are independent of their parents, who at that time may choose to view them as food. Some fry have short larval stages and live as plankton for a short while. Others are fully developed but miniature versions of their parents, assuming the same behaviors as their parents immediately.


It is the case that pipefish possess a swimbladder. The literature on its size and positioning is very scant, with an aged volume dating from 1934 the only known publication containing specific information. The laterally-flattened spheroidal swimbladder is approximately 1/25 the length of the whole animal and apparently highly acoustically reflective at commercially important frequencies. This appears to apply to juveniles also.

Genera and species


pipefish in German: Seenadeln
pipefish in Spanish: Pez aguja
pipefish in French: Syngnathus
pipefish in Dutch: Zeenaald
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1