Shorefishes of the Eastern Pacific online information system

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Family: SYNGNATHIDAE, Pipefishes, Seahorses

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body: covered with bony rings
fins no spines
no pelvics



The pipefishes, and their relatives the seahorses, which reach 30 cm, are characterized by a long, slender body, sometimes extremely elongated, that is encased in an armor of ring-like, bony segments; mouth small, without teeth, at the end of a long tubular snout; a very small gill opening that is restricted to the top corner of the operculum; no spines in the fins; a single, often long-based, dorsal fin; if present anal fin is very small (dorsal, anal, and/or pectoral fins absent in a few species); no pelvic fins; tail prehensile in some genera.

Most species are seldom seen because of their habitat of remaining in crevices. Perhaps the most unusual peculiarity displayed by this family is their habit of male egg incubation. The female deposits her eggs on the underside of the male, usually in a pouch or on a specially vascularised surface. The "pregnant" male then carries these until hatching occurs.

Worldwide the family contains about 279 species of pipefishes belonging to more than 53 genera and approximately 30 species of seahorses in the single genus Hippocampus. In our region there are five species of pipefishes in five genera, and one species of seahorse.