Potentially Misidentified Species:
As mentioned above, five other pipefishes
are found in the IRL. Of these, one is a long-snout species
like S. louisianae. The dusky pipefish, S. floridae,
is generally smaller than S. louisianae, at a maximum
length of 25 cm (Robins & Ray 1986). The body is olive-brown
and variably mottled without districts bands. The dorsal fin
is usually located from the 2nd trunk ring to the 4th or 5th
tail ring. Other fin ray and meristic counts are as follows:
dorsal fin rays = 26-34; trunk rings = 17-18; and tail rings
= 30-38 (Robins & Ray 1986). The commonly seen gulf pipefish,
S. scovelli, is a short-snout
species only reaching 7.5 cm in length.
II. HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION
Regional Occurrence & Habitat
The range of the chain pipefish extends
from Virginia to the Caribbean coast of Mexico, Jamaica, Bermuda,
and the Gulf of Mexico. However, this species is reported to
be absent from the Bahamas (Robins & Ray 1986). Most populations
of S. louisianae inhabit seagrass beds, marsh areas
(Kanouse et al. 2006) and floating mats of the brown
algae Sargassum natans and S. fluitans (Wells
& Rooker 2004).
The chain pipefish can be found
throughout the IRL, usually in association with seagrass beds
and drift algae.
III. LIFE HISTORY AND
Age, Size, Lifespan:
Little information exists on the maximum
age and average lifespan of S. louisianae. The maximum
reported length for the chain pipefish is 38 cm (Monteiro et
al. 2005, Robins & Ray 1986), but most specimens collected
in the field measure between 2.8 and 10 cm (Dawson 1972).
The highest abundance for the chain pipefish
occurs in Florida during the summer months of May to July (Dawson
1972, Kanouse et al. 2006, Wells & Rooker 2004).
Few density estimates exist for S. louisianae, but
the total catch for populations inhabiting Sargassum mats in
the northern Gulf of Mexico was approximately 2,000 individuals
(Wells & Rooker 2004).
Like most other syngnathids, S. louisianae
males give birth to live young from eggs transferred from the
female to a specialized marsupium called a brood pouch. Unlike
most seahorses, pipefishes of the genus Syngnathus incubate
eggs in an inverted pouch (Monteiro et al. 2005). Fertilization
occurs after the female transfers the eggs, and incubation lasts
until embryos develop into juveniles. Studies suggest that reproduction
peaks in late spring and early summer for populations in Florida,
with a large abundance of juveniles found in the waters of the
Gulf of Mexico in August (Wells & Rooker 2004). Information
on maturation age and size is scarce, but the largest reported
length for the chain pipefish (38 cm) was for a pregnant male
(Monteiro et al. 2005).
Compared to other syngnathids, the embryology
and development of S. louisianae is poorly documented.
The maximum number of eggs reported for a single male was 900,
each measuring approximately 0.8 mm in diameter (Monteiro et
IV. PHYSICAL TOLERANCES
Temperature & Salinity:
The habitat and distribution of the chain
pipefish suggests that it has large salinity and temperature
tolerances, although most individuals are found in warm coastal
waters. Salinity and temperature ranges for populations in the
Gulf of Mexico off the Mississippi coast range from 13.1 to
36.5 ppt and 12.4 to 30.8 °C (Dawson 1972).
V. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY
Like other syngnathids, chain pipefish
prey mostly on small crustaceans such as shrimps, amphipods
Little information exists about predators
of the chain pipefish, but the ability of the species to camouflage
itself between seagrass blades and among clumps of algae reduces
predation. Still, individuals are likely preyed upon by other
fishes and birds.
No known obligate associations exist for
S. louisianae. However, chain pipefish are associated
with several organisms common to seagrass beds and drift algae
communities. In Sargassum mats, S. louisianae
can be found alongside a variety of other invertebrates and
fishes, including: sargassumfish, Histrio histrio;
sergeant majors, Abudefduf
saxatilis; blue runners, Caranx
crysos; gray triggerfish, Balistes
capriscus; planehead filefish, Monacanthus hispidus;
and greater amberjack, Seriola dumerili (Wells &
Rooker 2004). For extensive lists of other species found throughout
the ecosystems in which S. louisianae occurs, please
refer to the “Habitats of the IRL” link at the left of this
VI. SPECIAL STATUS
& FURTHER READING
Dawson, CE. 1972. Nektonic pipefishes (Syngnathidae) from the
Gulf of Mexico off Mississippi. Copeia. 1972: 844-848.
Herald, ES. 1942. Three new pipefishes
from the Atlantic coast of North and South America with a key
to the Atlantic American species. Stanford Ichthyol. Bull.
Hildebrand, HH. 1954. A study of the brown
shrimp (Penaeus aztecus Ives) grounds in the western
Gulf of Mexico. Publ. Ist. Mar. Sci. Univ. Texas. 3:
Hildebrand, HH. 1955. A study of the fauna
of the pink shrimp (Penaeus duorarum Burkenroad) grounds
in the Gulf of Campeche. Publ. Ist. Mar. Sci. Univ. Texas.
Joseph, EB & RW Yerger. 1956. The
fishes of Alligator Harbor, Florida, with notes on their natural
history. Florida State Univ. Stud. 22: 111-156.
Kanouse, S, La Peyre, MK & JA Nyman.
2006. Nekton use of Ruppia maritima and non-vegetated
bottom habitat types within brackish marsh ponds. Mar. Ecol.
Prog. Ser. 327: 61-69.
Monteiro, NM, Almada, VC & MN Vieira.
2005. Implications of different brood pouch structures in syngnathid
reproduction. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. UK. 85: 1235-1241.
Robins, CR & GC Ray. 1986. A field
guide to Atlantic coast fishes of North America. Houghton
Mifflin Co. New York. USA. 354 pp.
Wells, RJD & JR Rooker. 2004. Spatial
and temporal patterns of habitat use by fishes associated with
Sargassum mats in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.
Bull. Mar. Sci. 74: 81-99.
Report by: LH Sweat, Smithsonian Marine Station
at Fort Pierce
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Page last updated: 17 August 2009
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