, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 957–965 | Cite as

Population structure and reproductive characteristics of the gulf pipefish,Syngnathus scovelli, in Mobile Bay, Alabama

  • Jeff Bolland
  • Anne Boettcher


The gulf pipefish,Syngnathus scovelli, is the dominant syngnathid found in coastal regions of the Gulf of Mexico and is the only species in this region known to occur in both freshwater and saltwater habitats. Relatively little is known about the population and reproductive cycles ofS. scovelli, particularly for those found in low salinity environments. The focus of the current study was to collect population structure and reproductive data forS. scovelli from a low salinity habitat, Meaher Park, located at the mouth of Mobile Bay, Alabama. Sampling was conducted twice a month from January 2003 to January 2004. Environmental parameters, as well as population and reproductive parameters, were collected. Water temperature was the primary abiotic factor associated with both the appearance ofS. scovelli and their breeding cycle. Based on gonadosomatic (GSI) and brood pouch somatic indices (BPSI), females and males were reproductively active throughout the summer. Peaks in male GSI and BPSI were consistent with the subsequent appearance of a large number of juveniles in early fall. These event coincided with the higher temperatures seen during late summer and early fall. Sex ratios (male : female 1 : 1.64) and operational sex ratios (1 : 4.09) indicated that this was a female biased population. Although there was no difference in the average size of males and females in this population, the largest individuals collected were female. The female-biased sex ratio supports previous genetic analyses suggesting thatS. scovelli exhibits true sex-role reversal and that operational sex ratios are a reliable indicator of the intensity of mating competition and sex roles.


Sexual Selection Gonadosomatic Index Brood Pouch American Fishery Society Hepatosomatic Index 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature cited

  1. Allen, Y., A. Scott, P. Matthiessen, S. Haworth, J. Thain, andS. Feist. 1999. Survey of estrogenic activity in the United Kingdom estuarine and coastal water and its affects on gonadal development of the flounderPlatichthys flesus.Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 18:1791–1800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amos, W. H. andS. H. Amos. 1985. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, The Audubon Society Nature Guides, revised edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, R. O. andS. J. Gutreuter. 1983. Length, weight, and associated structural indices, p. 283–300.In L. A. Nielson and D. L. Johnson (eds.), Fisheries Techniques. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.Google Scholar
  4. Andersson, M. 1994. Sexual Selection. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  5. Bateman, A. J. 1948. Intra-sexual selection inDrosophila.Heredity 2:349–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berglund, A. 1991. Egg competition in a sex-role reversed pipefish: Subdominant females trade reproduction for growth.Evolution 45:770–774.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berglund, A., G. Rosenqvist, andI. Svensson. 1986. Reversed sex roles and parental energy investment in zygotes of two pipefish (Syngnathidae) species.Marine Ecology Progress Series 29: 209–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown, J. D. 1972. A comparative life history study of four species of pipefish (Family Syngnathidae). Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.Google Scholar
  9. Burn, D. A. and T. A. Ryan. 1983. A Diagnostic Test for Lack Of Fit in Regression Models, p. 286–290.In Proceedings of the Statistical Computing Section of the American Statistical Association, Detroit, Michigan.Google Scholar
  10. Campbell, B. C. andW. K. Able. 1998. Life history characteristics of the northern pipefish,Syngnathus fuscus, in southern New Jersey.Estuaries 21:470–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Duffy, K. C. andD. M. Baltz. 1998. Comparison of fish assemblages with native and exotic submerged macrophytes in the Lake Pontchartrain estuary, USA.Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 223:199–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Forsgren, E., T. Amundsen, A. A. Borg, andJ. Bjelvenmark. 2004. Unusually dynamic sex roles in a fish.Nature 429:551–554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Franzoi, P., R. MacCagnani, R. Rossi, andV. U. Ceccherelli. 1993. Life cycles and feeding habits ofSyngnathus taenionotus andS. abaster (Pisces, Syngnathidae) in a brackish bay of the Po River Delta (Adriatic Sea).Marine Ecology Progress Series 97:71–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gasparini, J. L. andR. L. Teixeria. 1999. Reproductive aspects of the gulf pipefishSyngnathus scovelli (Teleostei: Syngnathidae), from southeastern Brazil.Revista Brasileira de Biologia 59:87–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Goede, R. W. andB. A. Barton. 1990. Organismic indices and an autopsy-based assessment as indicators of fish health and condition of fish, p. 93–108.In Symposium 8, American Fisheries Society. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.Google Scholar
  16. Gutjahr-Gobell, R. E., M. Huber, H. Borsay, G. E. Zaroogian, andL. J. Mills. 2002. A temperate reed fish,Tautogolabrus adspersus, (Walbaum) as a potential model species for laboratory studies evaluating reproductive effects of chemical exposure.Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 21:380–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hamilton, Jr.,W. J. 1942. Habits ofSyngnathus scovelli (Evermann and Kendall).Copeia 3:188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hemming, J. M., W. T. Waller, M. C. Chow, N. D. Denslow, andB. Venables. 2001. Assessment of the estrogenicity and toxicity of a domestic wastewater effluent flowing through a constructed wetland system using biomarkers in the male fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas Rafinescue, 1820).Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 20:2268–2275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Henderson, B. A., J. L. Wong, andS. J. Nepszy. 1996. Reproduction of walleye in Lake Erie: Allocation of energy.Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 53:127–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Herald, E. S. andC. E. Dawson. 1972. A new subspecies of the gulf pipefishSyngnathus scovelli kamahi Pisces Syngnathidae.Copeia 4:781–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hoese, H. D. andR. H. Moore. 1992. Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico: Texas, Louisiana and Adjacent Waters, 1st edition. Texas A&M University Press, College Station, Texas.Google Scholar
  22. Jones, A. G. andJ. C. Avise. 1997. Microsatellite analysis of maternity and the mating system in the gulf pipefishSyngnathus scovelli, a species with male pregnancy and sex-role reversal.Molecular Ecology 6:203–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jones, A. G., E. Walker, andJ. C. Avise. 2001. Genetic evidence for extreme polyandry and extraordinary sex-role reversal in a pipefish.Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 268: 2531–2535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Joseph, E. B. 1957. A study of the systematics and life history of the gulf pipefish,Syngnathus scovelli (Evermann and Kendall). Ph.D. Dissertation, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida.Google Scholar
  25. Kokko, H. andR. A. Johnstone. 2002. Why is mutual mate choice not the norm? Operational sex ratios, sex roles and the evolution of sexually dimorphic and monomorphic signaling.Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 357: 319–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kokko, H. andP. Monaghan. 2001. Predicting the direction of sexual selection.Ecology Letters 4:159–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kornienko, E. S. 2001. Reproduction and development in some genera of pipefish and seahorses of the family Syngnathidae.Russian Journal of Marine Biology 27:S15-S26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lazzari, M. A. andK. W. Able. 1990. Northern pipefish,Syngnathus fuscus, occurrences over the Mid-Atlantic Bight continental shelf: Evidence of seasonal migration.Environmental Biology of Fishes 27:177–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mayer, I. 1993. Plasma levels of sex steroids in three species of pipefish.Canadian Journal of Zoology 71:1903–1907.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Maynard Smith, J. 1991. Theories of sexual selection.Trends in Ecology and Evolution 6:146–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McLane, W. M. 1955. The fishes of the St. Johns River system. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.Google Scholar
  32. Neter, J., W. Wasserman, andM. H. Kuter. 1990. Applied Linear Statistical Models. Regression, Analysis of Variance and Experimental Design, 3rd edition. Irwin, Homewood, Illinois.Google Scholar
  33. Ott, R. L. 1993. An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Data Analysis, 4th edition. Duxbury Press, Belmont, California.Google Scholar
  34. Partridge, C. 2003. The reproductive physiology, biochemistry and histology of the gulf pipefish,Syngnathus scovelli. M.S. Thesis, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama.Google Scholar
  35. Partridge, C., C. Cazalas, J. Rozelle, J. Hemming, andA. Boettcher. 2004. Small-scale captive breeding of a euryhaline pipefish.World Aquaculture September:51–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Power, M. andM. J. Attrill. 2003. Long-term trends in the estuarine abundance of Nilsson’s pipefish (Syngnathus rostellatus Nilsson).Estuarine, Coastal, and Shelf Science 57:325–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Quast, W. D. andN. R. Howe. 1980. The osmotic role of the brood pouch in the pipefishSyngnathus scovelli.Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 67:675–678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Shipp, R. L. 1986. Dr. Bob Shipp’s Guide to the Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico. Century Printing Company, Mobile, Alabama.Google Scholar
  39. Takahashi, E., R. M. Connolly, andS. Y. Lee. 2003. Growth and reproduction of double-ended pipefish,Syngnathoides biaculeatus, in Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia.Environmental Biology of Fishes 67:23–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Targett, T. E. 1984. A breeding population of Gulf pipefish (Syngnathus scovelli) in a Georgia estuary.Contributions in Marine Science 27:169–174.Google Scholar
  41. Teixeira, R. L. 1995. Reproductive and feeding biology of selected syngnathids (Pisces: Teleostei) of the western Atlantic. Ph.D. Dissertation, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia.Google Scholar
  42. Trivers, R. 1972. Parental investment and sexual selection, p. 139–179.In B. Campbell (ed.), Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man. Aldine Press, Chicago, Illinois.Google Scholar
  43. Ueda, N., C. Partridge, J. Bolland, J. Hemming, T. Sherman, andA. Boettcher. 2005. Effects of an environmental estrogen on male gulf pipefish,Syngnathus scovelli (Evermann and Kendall) a male brooding teleost.Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 74:1207–1212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Vincent, A., I. Ahnesjo, A. Berglund, andG. Rosenqvist. 1992. Pipefish and seahorses: Are they all sex role reversed?Trends in Ecology and Evolution 7:237–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Vincent, A., A. Berglund, andI. Ahnesjo. 1995. Reproductive ecology of five pipefish species in one eelgrass meadow.Environmental Biology of Fishes 44:347–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Whatley, E. C. 1969. A study ofSyngnathus scovelli in fresh waters of Louisiana and salt waters of Mississippi.Gulf Research Reports 2:437–473.Google Scholar
  47. Zar, J. H. 1984. Biostatistical Analysis, 2nd edition, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of South AlabamaMobile

Personalised recommendations