Ichthyological Research

, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 77–82 | Cite as

Basic reproductive biology of the barbed pipefish Urocampus nanus (Syngnathidae) under laboratory conditions

  • Atsushi SogabeEmail author
  • Ryota Kawanishi
  • Hiromi Takata
  • Yasuhisa Kobayashi
Short Report


The mating behaviour, fecundity characteristics and egg production process were investigated in the barbed pipefish Urocampus nanus under aquarium conditions. The mating behaviour consisted of five motor patterns, some of which have been generally reported in other syngnathids. Neither the number nor size of newborns related to the size of parents, although there was a negative correlation between the number and size of newborns. The ovary consisted of two germinal ridges, and mature eggs were produced synchronously with multiple ovulations. This type of egg production has thus far been reported only in a polyandrous and sex-role-reversed pipefish.


Syngnathidae Urocampus nanus Oogenesis Spawning 



We are grateful to S. Iwasaki for technical support in the field and laboratory work. We thank K. Hidaka, H. Issiki, Y. Kamimura, H. Kinoshita, T. Morita, Y. Nakata, E. Sawai, J. Shoji and A. Tada for their help in collecting fish. This research was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for Young Scientists to AS.

Supplementary material

Movie S1 Video image of mating behaviour of Urocampus nanus (WMV 59999 kb)

Movie S2 Video image of post-spawning behaviour (wiggling) and egg dumping of male Urocampus nanus (WMV 18154 kb)


  1. Ahnesjö I (1992) Consequences of male brood care; weight and number of newborn in a sex-role reversed pipefish. Funct Ecol 6:274–281Google Scholar
  2. Begovac PC, Wallace RA (1987) Ovary of the pipefish, Syngnathus scovelli. J Morphol 193:117–133Google Scholar
  3. Begovac PC, Wallace RA (1988) Stages of oocyte development in the pipefish, Syngnathus scovelli. J Morphol 197:353–369Google Scholar
  4. Berglund A, Rosenqvist G (2003) Sex role reversal in pipefish. Adv Stud Behav 32:131–167Google Scholar
  5. Berglund A, Rosenqvist G, Svensson I (1986a) Reversed sex roles and parental energy investment in zygotes of two pipefish (Syngnathidae) species. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 29:209–215Google Scholar
  6. Berglund A, Rosenqvist G, Svensson I (1986b) Mate choice, fecundity and sexual dimorphism in two pipefish species (Syngnathidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 19:301–307Google Scholar
  7. Gronell AM (1984) Courtship, spawning and social organization of the pipefish, Corythoichthys intestinalis (Pisces: Syngnathidae) with notes on two congeneric species. Z Tierpsychol 65:1–24Google Scholar
  8. Haresign TW, Shumway SE (1981) Permeability of the marsupium of the pipefish Syngnathus fuscus to [14C]-alpha amino isobutyric acid. Comp Biochem Physiol 69A:603–604Google Scholar
  9. Ishihara T, Tachihara K (2008) Reproduction and early development of a freshwater pipefish Microphis leiaspis in Okinawa-jima Island, Japan. Ichthyol Res 56:388–393Google Scholar
  10. Ishihara T, Tachihara K (2009) The maturity and breeding season of the bellybarred pipefish, Hippichthys spicifer, in Okinawa-jima Island rivers. Ichthyol Res 56:388–393Google Scholar
  11. Kuiter RH (2009) Seahorses and their relatives. Aquatic Photographics, Seaford, Australia.Google Scholar
  12. Masonjones HD, Lewis SM (1996) Courtship behavior in the dwarf seahorse, Hippocampus zosterae. Copeia 1996:634–640Google Scholar
  13. McCoy EE, Jones AG, Avise JC (2001) The genetic mating system and test for cuckoldry in a pipefish species in which males fertilize eggs and brood offspring externally. Mol Ecol 10:1793–1800Google Scholar
  14. Nakabo T (2002) Fishes of Japan: with pictorial keys to the species. English edn. Tokai University Press, Tokyo.Google Scholar
  15. Paczolt KA, Jones AG (2010) Post-copulatory sexual selection and sexual conflict in the evolution of male pregnancy. Nature 464:401–404Google Scholar
  16. Pihl L, Baden S, Kautsky N, Rönnbäck P, Söderqvist T, Troell M, Wennhage H (2006) Shift in fish assemblage structure due to loss of searass Zostera marina habitats in Sweden. Est Coast Shelf Sci 67:123–132Google Scholar
  17. Quast WD, Howe NR (1980) The osmotic role of the brood pouch in the pipefish Syngnathus scovelli. Comp Biochem Physiol 67A:675–678Google Scholar
  18. Rosenqvist G (1990) Male mate choice and female–female competition for mates in the pipefish Nerophis ophidion. Anim Behav 39:1110–1115Google Scholar
  19. Selman K, Wallace RA, Player D (1991) Ovary of the seahorse, Hippocampus erectus. J Morphol 209:285–304Google Scholar
  20. Sogabe A, Ahnesjö I (2011) The ovarian structure and mode of egg production in two polygamous pipefishes: a link to mating pattern. J Fish Biol 78:1833–1846Google Scholar
  21. Sogabe A, Matsumoto K, Ohashi M, Watanabe A, Takata H, Murakami Y, Omori K, Yanagisawa Y (2008) A monogamous pipefish has the same type of ovary as observed in monogamous seahorses. Biol Lett 4:362–365Google Scholar
  22. Vincent ACJ (1990) Reproductive ecology of seahorses. University of CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  23. Vincent ACJ (1996) The international trade in seahorses. TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK.Google Scholar
  24. Vincent ACJ, Giles BG (2003) Correlates of reproductive success in a wild population of Hippocampus whitei. J Fish Biol 63:344–355Google Scholar
  25. Vincent ACJ, Ahnesjö I, Berglund A, Rosenqvist G (1992) Pipefishes and seahorses: are they all sex role reversed? Trend Ecol Evol 7:237–241Google Scholar
  26. Watanabe S, Watanabe Y, Okiyama M (1997) Monogamous mating and conventional sex roles in Hippichthys penicillus (Syngnathidae) under laboratory conditions. Ichthyol Res 44:306–310Google Scholar
  27. Wilson AB, Vincent A, Ahnesjö I and Meyer A (2001) Male pregnancy in seahorses and pipefishes (Family Syngnathidae): rapid diversification of paternal brood pouch morphology inferred from a molecular phylogeny. J Hered 92:159–166Google Scholar
  28. Wilson AB, Ahnesjö I, Vincent ACJ, Meyer A (2003) The dynamics of male brooding, mating patterns, and sex roles in pipefishes and seahorses (family Syngnathidae). Evolution 57:1374–1386Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Ichthyological Society of Japan 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Atsushi Sogabe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ryota Kawanishi
    • 2
  • Hiromi Takata
    • 2
  • Yasuhisa Kobayashi
    • 3
  1. 1.Graduate School of Biosphere ScienceHiroshima UniversityHigashi-HiroshimaJapan
  2. 2.Graduate School of Science and EngineeringEhime UniversityMatsuyamaJapan
  3. 3.Sesoko Station, Tropical Biosphere Research CenterUniversity of the RyukyusMotobuJapan

Personalised recommendations