Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Baby Pipefish at the Tennessee Aquarium

 The Tennessee Aquarium recently received a shipment of wild-caught alligator pipefish. Among this batch of 10 pipefish were two pregnant males, one of which delivered a few babies upon arrival. In the picture above, you can see an adult alligator pipefish in the right-hand side of the picture. In the upper left-hand side, is an acrylic "nursery" for the baby pipefish.

 These little creatures are an active group. They swim around and siphon up the tiny rotifers that Aquarists provide them for food. They are fed three times each day.
 Right now, most of the babies are only about two centimeters in length.
 That's only about as long as their father's snout!
Their tiny eyes look almost comical atop such slender snouts. And according to assistant curator of fishes Carol Haley, the strange-looking, elongated bodies help them avoid predators. "These close relatives of seahorses resemble a string bean in appearance," said Haley. "This helps them camouflage themselves where they live, in sea grass beds and sargassum mats."
In the wild, alligator pipefish, Signathoides biaculeatus, are found throughout the Indo-Pacific ocean. Tennessee Aquarium guests can see adult alligator pipefish in the Philippine Reef Edge exhibit in the seahorse gallery.
Female pipefish lay between 60 and 200 eggs on the abdomen of the male and he develops a thin membrane around them.  His abdomen becomes soft and spongy allowing the eggs to receive nutrients from him.
Babies hatch after about 3 weeks and are little over a centimeter in length. 
This species grows rapidly with males attaining a length of close to a foot and females being slightly smaller.
They have a prehensile tail like a seahorse that they use to hitch onto just about anything around them, including each other. They'll hang out in a backup area at the Aquarium until they are big enough to be placed on exhibit.

Play the Seymore Seahorse's Habitat Safari Game: http://www.tnaqua.org/Seahorses/game/seahorseGame.html

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