, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 347-361

Reproductive ecology of five pipefish species in one eelgrass meadow

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Synopsis

Synopsis Pipefishes have rarely been watched in the wild and have never before been followed in their common seagrass habitats. This study explores the reproductive ecology of five species of pipefishes living in a Swedish eelgrass meadow during parts of four breeding seasons, tagging four of the species. Pipefish are remarkable for their specialised paternal care: only males aerate, osmoregulate and nourish the developing embryos. Two of the species (Entelurus aequoreus andNerophis ophidion) have simple ventral gluing of eggs on the trunk while three species (Syngnathus acus, S. rostellatus andS. typhle) have fully enclosed brood pouches on their tails. Males of the former species receive eggs from one female while males of the genusSyngnathus receive partial clutches from several females. Sex ratios of adults on the site differed from equal to male-biased to female-biased, according to species.S. typhle were most numerous and were resighted most often. They were present throughout the breeding season whereas there were temporal shifts in the presence of the other species on the meadow and in some sex ratios. Most species occurred in the deeper, denser part of the meadow but there was some habitat separation by species and sex. All species tended to stay low in the eelgrass, primarily coming up above the eelgrass to display and mate. No species showed site fidelity either to a home range or to the meadow, withE. aequoreus adults spending least time on the meadow. Sexual size dimorphism differed: males were larger inS. rostellatus, the same size inS acus and smaller in the other species. Although the species overlap in habitat requirements and breeding season, the only observed interspecific interactions were abortive courtships betweenSyngnathus species.