Syngnathus typhle, the Broadnosed Pipefish is a marine fish in the family Syngnathidae, the same as seahorses. It is native to the Eastern Atlantic, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Sea of Azov and the Mediterranean Sea. It is common in the coastal shallow waters, usually on reefs with seagrass. This species is notable for its ‘broad’ snout, which is as deep as its body.
The genus Syngnathus belongs to the family Syngnathidae, order Syngnathiformes, class Actinopterygii, phylum Chordata and kingdom Animalia.
The Broadnosed Pipefish is a slender, elongated fish with a hexagonal cross-section which distinguishes it from its even more threadlike relation the Straightnose Pipefish (Nerophis ophidion), which has a circular cross-section. Unlike the Straightnose Pipefish, it has a fan-shaped caudal fin.
The body surface of Syngnathus typhle is covered by small bony plates. The head resembles that of a seahorse with a long, laterally flattened snout and obliquely sloping mouth. The general colour is greenish, often with various darker mottling, and the belly is yellow. The average size is about 15 to 20 cm, with a maximum length of 25 cm. It is found at depths to about 20 metres.
The Broadnosed Pipefish tends to rest in a vertical position among the fronds of seaweed and feeds on plankton such as copepods, which it sucks in through its mouth. This species of pipefish has a sex-role reversed mating system in which females compete for access to males.
Syngnathus typhle breeds in the summer. The male has a brood pouch into which several females deposit clutches of about twenty eggs and where the eggs are fertilised. The fry hatch after about four weeks and are expelled into the open water. Even after this, the male continues to provide some parental care as the fry can retreat into the brood pouch in case of danger.
Males and females both actively court one another for mating, but courting is more frequent in females. Courtship and copulation follow a stereotyped pattern, beginning when one fish identifies a prospective mate nearby and performs the ritualized dance. If the other is receptive, the two align and continue the dance together until the female delivers her eggs into the male’s brood pouch via an ovipositor. The male then shakes the eggs into his brood pouch, releases his sperm into the pouch and assumes an S-shaped posture to fertilize the eggs.
The Broadnosed Pipefish have a polygynandrous mating system, with both males and females mating with multiple partners during a breeding season. Like other species of pipefish, the sex-role is reversed: males brood the eggs and because of their increased investment in offspring are the choosier sex, whereas females compete more intensely than males for access to mates. Females can produce eggs faster than males can brood them and are limited by the size of the male’s brood pouch, which cannot carry all the eggs of a female similar in size.
Male brood time is approximately four to six weeks, during which time the male provides oxygen and nutrients to the developing embryos until they hatch. One to six females contribute to each brood clutch, which is the highest rate of multiple maternity in all the pipefish species.
The photo of this Broadnosed Pipefish was taken at a depth of 14m at Mġarr Ix-Xini on Gozo’s south coast.
Photo taken by Brian Azzopardi