Monday, July 06, 2015


 During the Seahorse Key Coastal Ecosystems Camp, we seined the seagrass many times and pipefish were a common catch.

Long and slender, like a seahorse stretched to its limits, the pipefish is wonderfully adapted to life in the undersea pastures of the  Big Bend Seagrass National Marine Preserve.

Don't be fooled by their "seahorsian" faces, they are voracious predators of all things tasty and tiny in the seagrass.

In the grass, they cling to the blades, and gently sway as the grass does, becoming, for all intents and purposes, just another blade of grass.

... Until tiny fish larvae, or other minuscule things swim close and then they strike with amazing speed.

If  amazing camo, body shape, and great predator skills were all pipefish had, ... that would be awesome enough, 
but  wait ...

This is an adult MALE pipefish with a couple hundred newborn "pipelings" that he has just birthed after being placed in the bucket.

If you are familiar with his close relative the seahorse, you already know that males of these two similar fish species carry the eggs in a ventral pouch until they hatch.

He's not really pregnant, the female produced the eggs, he's just incubating them in a relatively safe place.

During their courtship entanglement, the female laid her eggs in a groove near the pouch where they were fertilized and then sealed inside.

The evolutionary advantage in this strategy is that while he's incubating the current clutch of eggs, the female can get busy producing the next set.

This way, A LOT of baby pipefish enter the dangerous world of the ocean, increasing the odds that at least some of them will reach adulthood.

A tiny 2 day old pipefish.


The adult and his young charges were all released after everyone in the camp had a chance to "ooh" and "awe" over them.

There was a lot of that.

I didn't "ooh", but I'm pretty sure I "awed".


Pablo said...

You have the best adventures and the knowledge to appreciate them as most people can't.

robin andrea said...

That is really awesome! As Pablo said, you do have the best adventures.

threecollie said...

Awww....they are magical!

Marilyn Kircus said...

I'd love to come to your camp. I'd both ooo and ahhh. Thanks for the pictures.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Humbling to see a creature that can crank out 200 perfect replicas of itself. And needs to, to get even one past all the predators. Perfection in that eyelash of a fish. Thank you.

Daniel said...

Your posts about Seahorse Key came to mind when I read this recent story on the curious collapse of bird rookeries on the island:

Wally Jones said...

I'm easily distracted by stuff in the Natural world. Pulling in a cast net of mullet, I used to take a break and "ooh and ahh" at all the other stuff. A handful of seaweed is an entire universe full of marvelous things. Such as Pipefish.

Great post.