Greater Pipefish

Greater pipefish

Latin name: Syngnathus acus
Global Distribution: north-west Europe and the Mediterranean
UK Distribution: west coast of Britain
Size: normally between 33 – 35 cm with records up to 45 cm
Diet: Misids (small shrimp-like crustaceans), small prawns
Habitat: Shallow waters among seaweed or rockpools and to depths of about 90 m. It can also be found on sand and mud extending into the mouths of estuaries

Greater Pipefish are close relatives of seahorses and are very commonly found around the west coast of Britain, but their exact population has never been estimated, probably because they are of no commercial value. They are closely tied up to the seagrass, as they use them for feeding and breeding grounds. This makes the species very vulnerable to any degradation of this particular habitat due to any human activities, such as dredging, commercial trawling or pollution. Greater Pipefish usually occupy shallow waters, therefore, they can often get trapped in rock pools in low tides – which makes them an exciting finding during our shore scrambles – but they are occasionally found as deep as 100m!

The Greater Pipefish is covered with hard scales and ridges – 18 to 19 rings from head to dorsal fin – which work as an armour against predators, as they are unfortunately very bad swimmers and can be easily caught by bigger predators. Their colour, however, works in their favour as they are very well camouflaged against the seabed. They have a very small mouth located at the end of their snout but as it cannot open, it is essentially used as a feeding vacuum cleaner.

Fun facts

  • Similarly to their close relatives, seahorses, it is the males that carry and care for the fertilised eggs after reproduction.
  • Male pipefish may cannibalise their own young moments after reproducing with one female so that they have the resources to reproduce with a larger, more attractive female.