Pacific short-bodied pipefish (Choeroichthys brachysoma)

Also known as: dotted pipefish, Pacific shortbody pipefish, shortbodied pipefish, short-bodied pipefish
Synonyms: Choeroichthys valencienni, Dooryichthys brachysoma, Doryichthys serialis, Doryichthys valenciennii, Syngnathus brachysoma
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassActinopterygii
OrderGasterosteiformes
FamilySyngnathidae
GenusChoeroichthys (1)
SizeMaximum length: 7 cm (2) (3)
Top facts

The Pacific short-bodied pipefish has yet to be classified on the IUCN Red List.

The Pacific short-bodied pipefish (Choeroichthys brachysoma) belongs to the Syngnathidae, a family of fish consisting of seahorses, pipefishes, and the weedy and leafy sea dragons. This family is named for its distinctive jaw structure, with syngnathus meaning ‘fused jaw’ in Greek (4).

Like other pipefish species, the Pacific short-bodied pipefish has a slender, elongate body (2) (5) and a small mouth located at the tip of a long, tube-like snout (5). It is this characteristic snout that has given the Pacific short-bodied pipefish the genus name Choeroichthys, with choiros being the Greek word for ‘pig’, and ichthys meaning ‘fish’ (2) (6). In this particular species, the distinctive snout is about equal in length to the remaining part of the head (7), and has visible ridges along the top and sides (6). The Pacific short-bodied pipefish’s specific name, brachysoma, is derived from the Greek words brachys, meaning ‘short’, and soma, meaning ‘body’, and refers to the fact that this particular species of pipefish has a relatively short body (6).

Interestingly, pipefish species do not have scales, but are instead encased in a series of bony rings (5), which in the Pacific short-bodied pipefish have deeply notched ridges on the body and tail (6). This species is dark brown with some pale speckling (2) (6), and a dark stripe extends from the tip of the snout through the eye to the bony plates that support the gill covers (6) (7) (8).

Two parallel series of small black spots run along the side of the Pacific short-bodied pipefish’s body (2) (7) (8), and these can be used to distinguish males and females in this sexually dimorphic species (6). Females usually have two complete rows of spots on each side (6), while in males the upper row is incomplete (6) (8). Female Pacific short-bodied pipefish also have more slender bodies than males, which tend to be shorter and have a wider body scattered with small white spots (6).  

A tropical species (2), the Pacific short-bodied pipefish is found in the western Indo-Pacific (1) (2) (6) (8), from the Red Sea and East Africa across to the Marshall and Society Islands. Its range extends northwards to the Phillipines and Japan, and southwards to Australia (2) (6).

In Australian waters, the Pacific short-bodied pipefish occurs from south-western Australia to Moreton Bay, Queensland (6).

A marine species, the Pacific short-bodied pipefish occurs on the continental shelf (2), where it can be found sheltering in tide pools (2) (6) and seagrass or coral reef lagoons (2) (6) (8) (9). This species is commonly found in association with algae, coral, seagrasses and sponges, often in habitats with shell rubble, mud, sand or silt substrates (9).

While the Pacific short-bodied pipefish has been recorded to depths of about 25 metres (2) (6) (8), it is most commonly found at depths of less than 5 metres (9).

Little information is available on the specific biology of the Pacific short-bodied pipefish, but like other pipefish this species may feed on small planktonic crustaceans (5) (6) (9), which it catches by rapidly sucking water up into its elongated snout (4) (6). However, the Pacific short-bodied pipefish has distinct tooth-like structures on its jaws, which may indicate that this particular species actually feeds by grazing (6).

The Pacific short-bodied pipefish is a solitary species, with the sexes remaining separate, except for when breeding (6). As in other pipefish and seahorses, the Pacific short-bodied pipefish has an unusual breeding system in which the male is in charge of egg incubation (5).

The female Pacific short-bodied pipefish has a specialised organ known as an ovipositor (2), which is used to deposit the eggs onto the underside of the male (5) (6), where they are fertilised (5). The male, which is thought to be capable of breeding when it attains a length of between 35 to 40 millimetres (6) (9), then carries the eggs around in a semi-exposed ‘brood pouch’ located under its tail until they hatch (2) (4) (5) (6) (9). The pouch is surrounded by blood capillaries to supply oxygen to the developing embryos (5), and the eggs are usually arranged in two parallel, single-layered rows (6).

While there is no information available on specific threats to the Pacific short-bodied pipefish, many species of seahorse and pipefish are known to be collected for sale in Asian markets as curios, aphrodisiacs or medicines (5).

Although there are currently no known conservation measures in place specifically for the Pacific short-bodied pipefish, this species is nationally protected in Australia through its listing under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (6) (9).

Marine Bioregional Plans have been developed for four of Australia’s marine regions to improve understanding of Australia’s oceans, identify the conservation values of each marine region, and set out broad biodiversity priorities and objectives. As part of these plans, the Pacific short-bodied pipefish has been identified as being of conservation value in the North and Northwest Marine Regions (9). 

Find out more about the Pacific short-bodied pipefish:

Learn more about marine conservation in Australia:

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This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. Species 2000 and ITIS Catalogue of Life (May, 2013)
    http://www.catalogueoflife.org/
  2. Fishbase - Choeroichthys brachysoma (May, 2013)
    http://www.fishbase.org/summary/Choeroichthys-brachysoma.html
  3. Jennings, G.H. (1997) The Sea and Freshwater Fishes of Australia & New Guinea. Part 2. Calypso Publications, London.
  4. BBC Nature - Syngnathidae (May, 2013)
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Syngnathidae
  5. Carpenter, K.E. (2002) Syngnathidae. In: The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 4: Bony Fishes Part 2 (Mugilidae to Carangidae). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. Available at:
    http://www.fao.org/docrep/009/x2400e/x2400e00.htm
  6. Fishes of Australia - Pacific shortbody pipefish (May, 2013)
    http://www.fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3170
  7. Weber, M.C.W. and de Beaufort, L.F. (1970) The Fishes of the Indo-Australian Archipelago. Volume 11. Brill Archive, Leiden, The Netherlands.
  8. Randall, J.E. (1995) Coastal Fishes of Oman. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.
  9. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (2012) Choeroichthys brachysoma. In: Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra. Available at:
    http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=66194