| More

Feeding ecology of pipefish species inhabiting Mediterranean seagrasses

Views: 792 Downloads: 143
JULIA CASTRO-FERNÁNDEZ (http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6555-1212), INÉS CASTEJÓN-SILVO, PABLO ARECHAVALA-LOPEZ (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6816-8542), JORGE TERRADOS (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0921-721X), BEATRIZ MORALES-NIN (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7264-0918)


Pipefish are a vulnerable and diverse group of ichthyofauna tightly associated with seagrass meadows, key habitats in shallow marine areas. Despite their charismatic role, the main ecological features, habitat, and diet of this group remain largely unknown. This study focuses on assessing pipefish habitat and feeding preferences, including different hosting seagrasses such as Posidonia oceanica and Cymodocea nodosa from the Balearic Islands, western Mediterranean. Four species (Syngnathus typhle, S. abaster, Nerophis ophidion, and N. maculatus) were found associated to different seagrasses. S. typhle and N. maculatus were more frequent in P. oceanica meadows, while S. abaster and N. ophidion in C. nodosa. Individuals of all species captured in P. oceanica were larger than those living in C. nodosa, suggesting a size-dependent habitat preference. Feeding preferences, however, were driven by prey availability and fish features, e.g., head/snout morphology. For the first time in the western Mediterranean, a thorough description of the diet and potential prey of this group was carried out. Epifaunal assemblages (potential prey) were
dominated in both habitats by harpacticoid copepods and gammarid amphipods, and they were also the primary prey according
to stomach contents of all species. These results can contribute to future pipefish conservation and management actions, such as targeting crucial habitat identification and designing culture and reintroduction protocols.


Syngnathid; morphometry; epifauna; diet; seasonality; Balearic Islands.

Full Text:



Abel, E., Riedl, R., 1986. Fauna y flora del mar Mediterráneo: una guía sistemática para biólogos y naturalistas. Omega, Barcelona, 368 pp.

Alós, J., Palmer, M., Catalan, I. A., Alonso-Fernández, A., Basterretxea, G. et al., 2014. Selective exploitation of spatially structured coastal fish populations by recreational anglers may lead to evolutionary downsizing of adults. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 503, 219-233.

Amundsen, P., 1996. A new approach to graphical analysis of feeding strategy from stomach contents data-modification of the Costello (1990) method. Journal of Fish Biology, 48, 607-614.

Ashley‐ross, M. A., 2002. Mechanical properties of the dorsal fin muscle of seahorse (Hippocampus) and pipefish (Syngnathus). Journal of Experimental Zoology, 293, 561-577.

Bell, J. D., 1983. Fish fauna of French Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows. II. Feeding habits. Tethys, 11, 1-14.

Cakić, P., Lenhardt, M., Mićković, D., Sekulić, N., Budakov, L.J., 2002. Biometric analysis of Syngnathus abaster populations. Journal of Fish Biology, 60, 1562-1569.

Campolmi, M., Franzoi, P., Mazzola, A., 1997. Observations on pipefish (Syngnathidae) biology in the Stagnone lagoon (west Sicily). Oceanographic Literature Review, 10, 1172.

Connolly, R.M., Butler, A.J., 1996. The effects of altering seagrass canopy height on small, motile invertebrates of shallow Mediterranean embayments. Marine Ecology, 17, 637- 652.

Costello, M.J., 1990. Predator feeding strategy and prey importance: a new graphical analysis. Journal of Fish Biology, 36, 261-263.

Drew, E.A., Jupp, B.P., 1976. Some aspects of the growth of Posidonia oceanica in Malta. p. 357-367. In: Underwater research. Drew, E.A., Lythgoe, J. N., Woods, J. D. (Eds). Academic Press, London.

Fourqurean, J.W., Marba, N., Duarte, C.M., Diaz-Almela, E., Ruiz-Halpern, S., 2007. Spatial and temporal variation in the elemental and stable isotopic content of the seagrasses Posidonia oceanica and Cymodocea nodosa from the Illes Balears, Spain. Marine Biology, 151, 219-232.

Franzoi, P., Maccagnani, R., Rossi, R., Ceccherelli, V.U., 1993. Life cycles and feeding habits of Syngnathus taenionotus and S. abaster (Pisces, Syngnathidae) in a brackish bay of the Po River Delta (Adriatic Sea). Marine Ecology Progress Series, 97, 71-81.

Franzoi, P., Franco, A., Torricelli, P., 2010. Fish assemblage diversity and dynamics in the Venice lagoon. Rendiconti Lincei, 21, 269-281.

Freyhof, J., 2016. Syngnathus abaster. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T21257A90911755. https:// www.iucnredlist.org/ (Accessed 27 January 2019).

Fuller, R., Berglund, A., 1996. Behavioral responses of a sexrole reversed pipefish to a gradient of perceived predation risk. Behavioral Ecology, 7, 69-75. Green, E. P., Short, F. T. (Eds), 2003. World atlas of seagrasses. University of California Press, Berkeley, USA, 324 pp.

Gürkan, Ş., 2008. The Biometric Analysis of Pipefish Species from Çamaltı Lagoon (İzmir Bay, Aegean Sea). EÜ Su Ürünleri Dergisi, 25, 53-56.

Howard, R.K., Koehn, J.D., 1985. Population dynamics and feeding ecology of pipefish (Syngnathidae) associated with eelgrass beds of western port, victoria. Marine and Freshwater Research, 36, 361-370.

Kendrick, A.J., Hyndes, G.A., 2005. Variations in the dietary compositions of morphologically diverse syngnathid fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 72, 415-427.

Kupren, K., Mamcarz, A., Kucharczyk, D., Prusińska, M., 2008. Changes in morphometric parameters in selected early ontogenic stages of three fish species from the genus leuciscus (teleostei, cyprynidae). Archives of Polish Fisheries, 16, 421-436.

Lawson, E.O., Akintola, S.L., Awe, F.A., 2013. Length-weight relationships and morphometry for eleven (11) fish species from Ogudu creek, Lagos, Nigeria. Advances in Biological Research, 7, 122-128.

Leysen, H., Roos, G., Adriaens, D., 2011. Morphological variation in head shape of pipefishes and seahorses in relation to snout length and developmental growth. Journal of Morphology, 272, 1259-1270.

Lindsey, C.C., 1978. Form, function and locomotory habits in fish. p. 1-100. In: Fish Physiolog Vol. VII. Locomotion. Hoar, W.S., Randall, D.J. (Eds). Academic Press, New York.

Lyons, D.O., Dunne, J.J., 2004. Inter- and intra-gender analyses of feeding ecology of the worm pipefish (Nerophis lumbriciformis). Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 84, 461-464.

Malavasi, S., Franco, A., Riccato, F., Valerio, C., Torricelli, P. et al., 2007. Habitat selection and spatial segregation in three pipefish species. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 75, 143-150.

Mattson, S., 1990. Food and feeding habits of fish species over a soft sublittoral bottom in the northeast Atlantic: 1. COD (GADUS MORHUA L.)(GADIDAE). Sarsia Taylor & Francis, 75, 247-267.

Muller, M., Osse, J. W. M., 1984. Hydrodynamics of suction feeding in fish. Journal of zoology, 37, 51-135.

Neutens, C., De Dobbelaer, B., Claes, P., Adriaens, D., 2017. Prehensile and non-prehensile tails among syngnathid fishes: what’s the difference? Zoology, 120, 62-72.

Oliveira, F., Erzini, K., Gonçalves, J.M. S., 2007. Feeding habits of the deep-snouted pipefish Syngnathus typhle in a temperate coastal lagoon. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 72, 337-347.

Orth, R.J., Heck, K.L., van Montfrans, J., 1984. Faunal communities in seagrass beds: a review of the influence of plant structure and prey characteristics on predator-prey relationships. Estuaries, 7, 339-350.

Parkinson, K.L., Booth, D.J., Lee, J.E., 2012. Validation of otolith daily increment formation for two temperate syngnathid fishes: The pipefishes Stigmatopora argus and Stigmatopora nigra. Journal of Fish Biology, 80, 698-704.

Pollom, R., 2014. Syngnathus typhle. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T198767A46263316. https:// www.iucnredlist.org/ (Accessed 27 January 2019).

Pollom, R., 2015. Nerophis ophidion. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T198764A80255416. https:// www.iucnredlist.org/ (Accessed 27 January 2019).

Riccato, F., Fiorin, R., Franco, A., Franzoi, P., Libertini, A. et al., 2003. Population structure and reproduction of three pipefish species (Pisces, Syngnathidae) in a sea grass meadow of the Venice Lagoon. Biologia Marina Mediterranea, 10, 138-145.

Rueden, C.T., Schindelin, J., Hiner, M.C., DeZonia, B.E., Walter, A.E. et al., 2017. ImageJ2: ImageJ for the next generation of scientific image data. BMC bioinformatics BioMed Central, 18, 529.

Rull, L., Cañizares, S., Sánchez-Lizaso, J.L., 1996. Efecto de las praderas de Cymodocea nodosa (Curia) Ascherson sobre el hidrodinamismo: resultados preliminares. Real Sociedad Española de Historia Natural, Tomo extraordinario, 125, 444-447.

Sánchez-Jerez, P., Barberá Cebrián, C., Ramos Esplá, A.A., 1999. Comparison of the epifauna spatial distribution in Posidonia oceanica, Cymodocea nodosa and unvegetated bottoms: Importance of meadow edges. Acta Oecologica, 20, 391-405.

Scapin, L., Cavraro, F., Malavasi, S., Riccato, F., Zucchetta, M. et al., 2018. Linking pipefishes and seahorses to seagrass meadows in the Venice lagoon: Implications for conservation. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 28, 282-295.

Shaltout, M., Omstedt, A., 2014. Recent sea surface temperature trends and future scenarios for the Mediterranean Sea. Oceanologia, 56, 411-443. Short, F.T., Coles, R.G. (Eds), 2001. Global seagrass research methods. Elsevier, Amsterdam, 482 pp.

Spellerberg, I.F., Fedor, P.J., 2003. A tribute to Claude Shannon (1916-2001) and a plea for more rigorous use of species richness, species diversity and the ‘Shannon–Wiener’Index. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 12, 177-179.

Taçkavak, E., Gürkan, Ş., Sever, T.M., Akalın, S., Özaydın, O., 2010. Gut contents and feeding habits of the great pipefish, Syngnathus acus Linnaeus, 1758, in İzmir Bay (Aegean Sea, Turkey): (Osteichthyes: Syngnathidae). Zoology in the Middle East, 50, 75-82.

Teixeira, R.L., Musick, J.A., 1995. Trophic ecology of two congeneric pipefishes (Syngnathidae) of the lower York River, Virginia. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 43, 95-309.

Terrados, J., Grau-Castella, M., Piñol-Santiñà, D., Riera- Fernández, P., 2006. Biomass and primary production of a 8–11 m depth meadow versus< 3 m depth meadows of the seagrass Cymodocea nodosa (Ucria) Ascherson. Aquatic Botany, 84, 324-332.

Tipton, K., Bell, S., 1988. Foraging patterns of two syngnathid fishes: importance of harpacticoid copepods. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 47, 31-13.

Tuya, F., Larsen, K., Platt, V., 2011. Patterns of abundance and assemblage structure of epifauna inhabiting two morphologically different kelp holdfasts. Hydrobiologia, 658, 373- 382.

Verdiell-Cubedo, D., Oliva-Paterna, F.J., Torralva-Forero, M., 2007. Fish assemblages associated with Cymodocea nodosa and Caulerpa prolifera meadows in the shallow areas of the Mar Menor coastal lagoon. Limnetica, 26, 341-350.

Vincent, A.C.J., Foster, S.J., Koldewey, H.J., 2011. Conservation and management of seahorses and other Syngnathidae. Journal of Fish Biology, 78, 1681-1724.

Vizzini, S., Mazzola, A., 2004. The trophic structure of the pipefish community (Pisces: Syngnathidae) from a western Mediterranean seagrass meadow based on stable isotope analysis. Estuaries, 27, 325-333.

Waycott, M., Duarte, C.M., Carruthers, T.J., Orth, R.J., Dennison, W.C. et al., 2009. Accelerating loss of seagrasses across the globe threatens coastal ecosystems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America School of Marine and Tropical Biology, 106, 12377-12381.

Wickham, H., 2016. ggplot2: Elegant Graphics for Data Anal718 Medit. Mar. Sci., 21/3 2020, 705-718 ysis. Springer-Verlag, New York, 260 pp. Wiswedel, S., 2016. Nerophis maculatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T198763A90891100. https:// www.iucnredlist.org/ (Accessed 27 January 2019).

Yildiz, T., Uzer, U., Karakulak, F.S., 2015. Preliminary report of a biometric analysis of greater pipefish Syngnathus acus Linnaeus, 1758 for the western Black Sea. Turkish Journal of Zoology, 39, 917-924.


  • There are currently no refbacks.