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February 26, 2015

Keepers at Portsmouth’s Blue Reef Aquarium are looking after hundreds of baby pipefish following an unexpected breeding boom. More than 220 tiny five-centimetre-long Snake Pipefish babies have already been born with potentially hundreds more due imminently. The newborns are being looked after in one of the aquarium’s nursery displays where they all appear to be in excellent condition.

Pipefish are closely related to seahorses and, like them, it is the male that incubates the eggs and gives birth to the young. Rows of eggs are laid by the female onto a special pad on the male’s belly, and here the eggs develop. Snake pipefish can grow up to 60 cms in length and are found in the Atlantic Ocean, usually close to shore and living among algae.

Blue Reef Aquarium’s Martyn Chandler said: “We have only had this particular species here at the aquarium since early October.

 “We have four adult Snake Pipefish, of which two are males. Each male can give birth to up to 200 young so we could well be in for a real baby boom over the coming weeks. When they hatch the babies are identical miniature versions of their parents, only a fraction of the size,” he added.

The young are born free swimming with relatively little or no yolk sac, and begin feeding immediately. From the time they hatch they are totally independent. Pipefish feed on small crustaceans such as mysid shrimps and tiny creatures called copepods. An adult greater pipefish needs to eat several hundred tiny shrimps in one day. UK waters are home to six different species of pipefish and two species of seahorse. In the wild pipefish live in relatively shallow waters over sandy seabeds or rough ground among seaweed and eel grasses. Like seahorses, pipefish are extremely slow moving fish and have developed a hard, armour-like outer skeleton to help protect them against would-be predators. They are often present in rockpools although their seaweed-like bodies mean they are extremely well camouflaged and easily overlooked.

Issued by Blue Reef Aquarium. For more information and to arrange picture, filming or interview opportunities please contact Adam Makinson or Martyn Chandler on 02392 875222

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