Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Although little information is available regarding the specific biology of the spiny pipehorse, most pipehorses are known to feed on minute animals living on the ocean bottom or within the water, such as tiny crustaceans (3). All pipehorses also have a remarkable and unique method of reproduction (3). During the breeding period, the tail of the male becomes brightly coloured and spongy (6). The female deposits eggs on to the underside of the male's tail (3) (5), where they are fertilized. The male then holds the responsibility of incubating the precious brood until they hatch (3).
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Description

Pipehorses are small fishes with slender and elongate bodies (3). Unlike many other fish, their bodies have no internal bones or external scales, and are instead encased in a series of hard, spiny rings (3) (4). The largest member of the Syngnathidae family occurring in Australia (5), the spiny pipehorse has a long and tubular snout, with a small, toothless mouth situated at the tip (3). It may be yellow, pink or orange in colour, patterned with narrow yellow bars and variable dark bars and blotches, and the area around the anus is red-brown (5). The tail is prehensile (5), enabling it to grasp to corals, sponges and other structures on the ocean floor (6).
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Comprehensive Description

Biology

Recorded from the continental shelf (Ref. 9563) from depths between 114 m (Ref. 58489) and 230 m (Ref. (9563). Ovoviviparous (Ref. 205). The male carries the eggs in a brood pouch which is found under the tail (Ref. 205).
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Distribution

Range Description

Solegnathus spinosissimus occurs in south-eastern Australia along the coasts of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania (May and Maxwell 1986) and also in New Zealand (Paulin et al. 1989). This species has also been recorded from off Brisbane (Queensland), and in South Australian waters (Gomon et al. 1994), although the South Australian specimen identifications have not been confirmed.


Museum Records from Australian Fish Collections (Pogonoski et al. 2002): there are 176 specimens (Standard Length 138-470 mm), trawled from depths of 2-640 m, ranging in geographical distribution from Caloundra (26°48’S), Queensland, southwards to Lune River (43°26’S), Tasmania. There are also records from New Zealand. Specimens were collected between circa 1885 and 2000.

Australian Marine Protected Areas in Which the Species Occurs (Pogonoski et al. 2002): this species possibly occurs in marine protected areas with suitable habitat along the coasts of Queensland, NSW and Victoria, but particularly Tasmania as they are known to occur in shallow waters in that State. New marine protected areas that were declared on 28 June 2007 (came into effect on 3 Sep 2007) where S. spinosissimus may occur are:

East Gippsland, Flinders, Freycinet, Huon, Tasman Fracture, Franklin, Boags, Apollo and Zeehan (see online map of the Commonwealth marine reserves in the south-east marine region of Australia)
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Southwest Pacific: southern Australia and New Zealand (Ref. 5755).
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Southeastern and eastern Australia: southern Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
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Range

The spiny pipehorse occurs in the southwest Pacific Ocean, around southern Australia and New Zealand (2).
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Physical Description

Size

Maximum size: 490 mm ---
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Max. size

49.0 cm TL (male/unsexed; (Ref. 9563))
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat

Solegnathus spinosissimus is most commonly taken by trawl in areas with muddy bottoms at depths of 29-232 m, but it occurs as shallow as 2-3 m in the Derwent & Huon Estuaries, Tasmania (Gomon et al. 1994, Davey and Martin-Smith, unpub. data). It is found in shallow waters in the southern part of its range where waters are shaded or are darkened by tannins. This species is often found over rubble substrates and near rich invertebrate platform reefs (Kuiter, 2000). It is sometimes found on beaches after storms and has occasionally been collected in depths up to 670 m. This species probably attaches itself to encrusting animal growths on deep rocky reefs (Ayling and Cox 1982). Divers in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and Huon Estuary in Tasmania have observed S. spinosissimus holding on to sea whips at 10-15 m depth (Edgar 1997, Davey and Martin-Smith unpub. data). In this habitat, they probably rely on camouflage to avoid predators. In New Zealand, S. spinosissimus has been observed in Fiordland at 20-30 m attached to gorgonians or other habitat forming benthos (K. Miller pers. comm..)

Behaviour and Biology

The female attaches eggs to the underside of the male’s tail, just behind the anus, as pipehorses lack a brood pouch structure (Francis 1996). The male carries the eggs until they hatch (Francis 1996). Brood size is approx. 200 (Davey and Martin-Smith unpub. data). The young are benthic and have no pelagic stage (Kuiter 2000). Solegnathus spinosissimus anchor themselves to holdfasts such as seaweed or sea fans while feeding on planktonic crustaceans (Francis 1996).

Size

Solegnathus spinosissimus attains a maximum length of 50 cm (Francis 1996). FishBase lists the maximum total length for S. spinosissimus as 49 cm (May and Maxwell 1986, as cited by Froese and Pauly 2007)

Critical Habitats

No critical habitats have been identified. It is likely that this species has specific habitat preferences, particularly for habitat forming benthos, that determine its abundance within its range, but little or no research has focused on the critical habitats for this species.

Systems
  • Marine
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Environment

demersal; marine; depth range 114 - 230 m (Ref. 58489)
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Depth range based on 100 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 39 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 49 - 356.5
  Temperature range (°C): 8.394 - 15.991
  Nitrate (umol/L): 2.747 - 15.268
  Salinity (PPS): 34.407 - 35.451
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.021 - 6.323
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.312 - 0.905
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.627 - 6.099

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 49 - 356.5

Temperature range (°C): 8.394 - 15.991

Nitrate (umol/L): 2.747 - 15.268

Salinity (PPS): 34.407 - 35.451

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.021 - 6.323

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.312 - 0.905

Silicate (umol/l): 1.627 - 6.099
 
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Depth: 0 - 230m.
Recorded at 230 meters.

Habitat: demersal.
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Living in temperate marine waters (5), the spiny pipehorse occurs down to depths of 230 metres (2), where it is often found over muddy bottoms (5). Pipehorses are often found around corals, algae or sponges, holding onto these structures with their tails (6).
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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Male carries the eggs in a brood pouch (Ref. 205).
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Solegnathus spinosissimus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
DD
Data Deficient

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Pogonoski, J., Pollard, D., Paxton, J., Morgan, S. & Bartnik, S.

Reviewer/s
Martin-Smith, K. & Caldwell, I. (Syngnathid Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification

Although data exists regarding the catch and trade of Solegnathus spinosissimus, there is not enough information at present to estimate the effect of current exploitation rates on wild populations. More research is needed on population structure and size in order to assess how wild populations are impacted by the removal of individuals via fishing. In addition, understanding the impacts of exploitation require studies on the critical habitats for S. spinosissimus, as little or no research has focused on the critical habitats for this species (Pogonoski et al. 2002).

Previous assessment of this species was based on the 1994 IUCN Red List Categories and criteria version 2.3. This assessment was precautionary–and designated S. spinosissimus as Vulnerable (A1d+2d) based, in part, on preliminary observations of the international trade of syngnathids for traditional medicines (Vincent 1996). Further research on the trade of pipefishes and pipehorses has,revealed, however, that while S. spinosissimus is part of the international and Australian domestic trade, it forms a lesser role compared to two congeners, S. dunckeri and S. hardwickii (Martin-Smith et al. 2003, Martin-Smith and Vincent 2006). Reassessment of S. spinosissimus using the 2001 IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria version 3.1 suggests that a designation of Data Deficient is more appropriate at this time, based on the dearth of available information regarding population size and structure. A listing of Data Deficient does not imply that the taxon is not threatened but that not enough information exists to quantify or even estimate extinction risk. Application of the category Data Deficient is a call for more research and scrutiny to be directed at this species. It is especially necessary to learn more about this species given that it forms part of the international dried syngnathid trade.

This species is caught as bycatch in the Australian trawl fishery (Bowles 2001), particularly the South East Trawl Fishery (AFMA 1999), and is also taken in crayfish pots set in deep water off eastern Northland, New Zealand (Ayling and Cox 1982). Some specimens enter trade after being caught and dried. Dried individuals are sold in domestic markets and exported to other countries (Pogonoski et al. 2002, Martin-Smith et al. 2003, Martin-Smith and Vincent 2006).

Although S. spinosissimus has historically made up a small proportion of the dried pipehorse trade (Martin-Smith and Vincent, 2006), the continued trade of Solegnathus species argues for more study to be conducted, as there is no way to link trade volumes with population dynamics. The gear choice in fisheries throughout the range of S. spinosissimus suggest the potential for population reduction due to mortality from bycatch - a strong argument that more research directed at many areas (such as taxonomy, population size and structure, habitat use, and potential threats) is a priority for this species.

History
  • 1996
    Vulnerable
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Status

Classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List (1).
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Population

Population
There is little information available regarding the population size or dynamics of S. spinosissimus. A small-scale study of S. spinosissimus in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, Tasmania suggested that the species is rare/scarce and found in low abundance (Davey and Martin-Smith, unpub. data).

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
Commercial fish and prawn trawling are potential threats to the survival of this species as they are taken as bycatch in these trawl and Danish seine fisheries (Ayling and Cox 1982, AFMA 1999, Bowles 2001, Pogonoski et al. 2002, Martin-Smith et al. 2003, Martin-Smith and Vincent 2006). Specimens caught as trawl bycatch will not likely survive if released due damage to internal organs that occurs when caught and brought to the surface, also termed prolapse (K. Graham, pers. comm.). Prolapse has been observed in animals brought to the surface from <5 m depth (Martin-Smith, unpub. data).
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Data deficient (DD)
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Although pipehorses are not specifically targeted by fishermen, they are often captured as bycatch (6), which threatens their existence. Once caught, they may be dried and used in traditional Chinese medicine, in which they are a highly valuable ingredient, sold as curios, or traded live as aquarium fish (6).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions

In Australia, S. spinosissimus has been identified or protected under several pieces of legislation. All syngnathids are listed as Protected Aquatic Biota in Victoria, Australia and the Tasmanian Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 prohibits the take of all syngnathids in Tasmania by non-permit holders, since September 1994 (Pogonoski et al. 2002). As well, all syngnathids became subject to the export controls of the Commonwealth Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982 from 1 January 1998 (Pogonoski et al., 2002) All syngnathids and solenostomids were listed as marine species under s248 of the EPBC Act 1999 (Pogonoski et al. 2002).

This species is listed as Data Deficient by the Australian Society for Fish Biology (ASFB) in its 2001 Conservation Status of Australian Fishes document, the most recent AFSB listing available (ASFB 2007). In an Australian overview of the conservation status of threatened marine fishes, it was recommended that further research be conducted in order to accumulate information on the basic biological and population dynamics characteristics of this species (Pogonoski et al. 2002). In addition, the collection of accurate distributional and depth data was recommended in order to identify key habitats (Pogonoski et al. 2002).

Pogonoski et al. (2002) also suggest non-trawl protected areas within the range of S. spinosissimus. Non-trawl areas would protect some wild populations from possible bycatch threats. In addition, monitoring of bycatch from the trawl fisheries would allow for baseline data to be accumulated on abundances, distributions and habitats (Pogonoski et al. 2002). Marine protected areas established in Australia on 28 June 2007 contain benthic sanctuary zones that will allow for some protection of wild populations in addition to providing opportunities to collect baseline data.

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Conservation

All species within the Syngnathidae family are protected in New South Wales, Australia, under the NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994, meaning the collection, harvest or possession of any species of pipehorse in New South Wales is prohibited without a permit (4).
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Wikipedia

Spiny pipehorse

The spiny pipehorse, Solegnathus spinosissimus, is a pipefish of the family Syngnathidae, found in the southwest Pacific Ocean on rocky or coral reefs to depths of 230 m. Length is up to 50 cm.

References

  • Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2006). "Solegnathus maculatus" in FishBase. May 2006 version.
  • Tony Ayling & Geoffrey Cox, Collins Guide to the Sea Fishes of New Zealand, (William Collins Publishers Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand 1982) ISBN 0-00-216987-8
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