The longsnout pipefish (Syngnathus acus) is found throughout South African waters. It occurs in the waters off southern Africa from Walvis Bay to the Thukela Bank on the Kwa-Zulu Natal coast.

Pipefish are related to seahorses. Like seahorses, male pipefish carry developing embryos in a pouch on their bellies and give birth to live young.

They have straight, segmented bodies and vary from greenish to brown, with alternating lighter bands down its body. There is a dorsal fin down the back and a delicate fanned tail but no ventricle fins – hence the apt name. Its feeds on live crustaceans and prawns.

In South Africa, the greatest density of pipefish occurs along the southern part of the West Coast and around the Southern Cape coast. As you move eastward along the southern coast, the population starts to thin out – and differentiate.

In 2007 a South African researcher argued that in the Indian Ocean Syngnathus acus is different from the populations found in the northern hemisphere. Specialists recognise the local variety as S temminckii, and it was argued that the South African population be recognised as unique. S watermeyeri is a second known variation occurring in South Africa. It was believed to be extinct but has since been documented in two Eastern Cape estuaries.

Most pipefish live in tidal pools and other coastal habitats. However, one species lives in the intestine of a species of sea cucumber!

Species Facts

  • Pipefish are related to seahorses
  • Male pipefish give birth to babies after carrying their embryos in pouches in their bellies