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The gulf pipefish is a slender, elongate fish that grows 3.5 Ė 6 inches, with females generally larger than males. to 6 inches. Males and females differ in appearance, with females having somewhat deeper bodies, a V-shaped abdomen, and distinctive silvery stripes along the trunk. Body color also differs between the sexes, with females being an olive brown color, and males being much lighter. Gulf pipefish have no pelvic fins, but the elongate dorsal fin extends across 3 rings of dermal armor on the body and 5 on the tail.

It typically inhabits shallow, densely vegetated, areas less than 20 feet in depth.  They are common in nearshore and estuarine waters where they are most commonly associated with seagrasses and drift algae.  Gulf pipefishes do especially well in disturbed habitat areas.  It is the only species among the 24 North American pipefishes that is known to enter freshwater areas.

Gulf pipefish range from Florida and Louisiana through the Gulf of Mexico, Central and South America to Brazil.  It is the most abundant pipefish in both Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.  The northern limit for this species was historically thought to be around the mouth of the St. Johnís River in east central Florida, however, an established breeding population has been discovered in northern Georgia in 1984.




Male gulf pipefish brooding eggs.  Photo courtesy of K. Hill, Smithsonian Marine Station. 

Close up of the head of Syngnathus scovelli, the gulf pipefish.  Photo courtesy of K. Hill, Smithsonian Marine Station at Ft. Pierce.

ipefishes and their relatives, the sea horses, exhibit atypical reproductive behavior and parental care. Maternal and paternal brooding roles are reversed in these groups, with females producing large eggs that are fertilized as they are deposited into the male brood pouch.  Males then carry the eggs for 12 - 21 days until they hatch.