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Eli’s Fish Facts: Northern Pipefish!

Eli’s Fish Facts: Northern Pipefish!

Sygnathus fuscus 

Northern pipefish are one of my favorite fish that we catch in the estuary. Closely related to the elusive lined seahorse (who almost never stray into Yonkers waters), pipefish show their kinship through similar features – a bony, ringed body; a long, protruding snout; and in males, a brood pouch. Pipefishes grow up to 8 inches, and are seen in our estuary during mating season in the spring through fall, and return to the continental shelf for warmer winter waters.

These fascinating fish feed on zooplankton floating in the water, and use their long snout to expel water, which causes a vacuum that sucks their prey in. They are also known, like seahorses, for males of the species being the ones to “get pregnant.” In reality, the female uses an ovipositor to deposit her eggs into the male’s brood pouch at the end of a mating dance, and he incubates them for approximately 10 days, after which up to 200 fully formed baby pipefish are expelled from the pouch. During incubation, the pouch emits an orange sheen, like the one pictured above.