Bay Pipefish (South Sound marine life)

For The OlympianJune 3, 2007 

Bay Pipefish (Syngnathus leptorhynchus

This strange, foot long, pencil-thin fish is a close relative of the sea horse, both of which have the body encased in bony rings giving them a segmented look. A poor swimmer, the bay pipefish is normally found around eelgrass beds and occasionally piling. They recently have turned up at the Boston Harbor Marina, which is unusual because they normally are not found this far south in Puget Sound. However, eelgrass recently has been reported from the Dana Pass area, so local conditions might be changing.

The bay pipefish, in common with the sea horse and other tropical pipefish, has a tiny toothless mouth located at the end of a tube-like snout. They feed on small amphipods, copepods and crab larvae by sucking them into their mouth.

Ranging from southeast Alaska to Baja California, the bay pipefish is the only member of the pipefish family that occurs in our area.

This group of fish bear the young alive rather than laying eggs on hard surfaces or dispersing them in the water. After mating in early summer, the female will immediately transfer her eggs to the male’s brood pouch where they grow to about three-quarters of an inch after several weeks. The young are not only protected while in the brood pouch, but also nourished by the male’s blood system. The young will remain in the area after they are expelled, usually hiding among blades of eelgrass.

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