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Alligator Pipefish 2.jpg
Alligator pipefish, Syngnathoides biaculeatus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Syngnathiformes
Family: Syngnathidae
Rafinesque, 1810
Subfamilies and genera

See text

The Syngnathidae are a family of fish which includes the seahorses, the pipefishes, the pipehorses, and the leafy, ruby, and weedy seadragons. The name is derived from Greek, syn, meaning "fused" or "together", and gnathus, meaning "jaws". This fused jaw trait is something the entire family has in common.[1]

Description and biology[edit]

Syngnathids are found in temperate and tropical seas across the world. Most species inhabit shallow, coastal waters, but a few are known from the open ocean, especially in association with sargassum mats. They are characterised by their elongated snouts, fused jaws, the absence of pelvic fins, and by thick plates of bony armour covering their bodies. The armour gives them a rigid body, so they swim by rapidly fanning their fins. As a result, they are relatively slow compared with other fishes, but are able to control their movements with great precision, including hovering in place for extended periods.[2]

Uniquely, after syngnathid females lay their eggs, the male then fertilizes and carries the eggs during incubation, using one of several methods. Male seahorses have a specialized ventral pouch to carry the eggs, male sea dragons attach the eggs to their tails, and male pipefish may do either, depending on their species.[3]

Seahorses and pipefish also have a unique feeding mechanism, known as elastic recoil feeding. Although the mechanism is not well-understood, seahorses and pipefish appear to have the ability to store energy from contraction of their epaxial muscles (used in upward head rotation), which they then release, resulting in extremely fast head rotation to accelerate their mouths towards unsuspecting prey.[4][5]


Images of species[edit]


  1. ^ Sara A. Lourie, Amanda C.J. Vincent and Heather J. Hall: Seahorses: An Identification Guide to the World's Species and their Conversation. London: Project Seahorse, 1999
  2. ^ Orr, J.W & Pietsch, T.W. (1998). Paxton, J.R. & Eschmeyer, W.N., eds. Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 168–169. ISBN 0-12-547665-5. 
  3. ^ "Seahorses and their relatives". NSW Department of Primary Industries - Fisheries. Archived from the original on 2008-05-01. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  4. ^ Van Wassenbergh et al., J. R. Soc. Interface 5:285(2008)
  5. ^ Van Wassenbergh et al., Biol. Lett. 5:200 (2009)

External links[edit]