A ‘pregnant’ male fish is set to give birth at a North East marine life centre
The snake pipefish is due to produce offspring at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Tynemouth.
Until recently the snake pipefish was a relatively rare sight in UK waters. However they appear to be getting more common, with individuals being found both dead and alive stranded on local beaches.
The snake pipefish, which can grow up to 60 centimetres in length, is one of six species found in UK waters, which are also home to two species of seahorse.
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.
Blue Reef Aquarium displays supervisor Terry McKeone said: “We have observed mating behaviours over the last couple of weeks, which can only be described as a sort of frantic dance and chase game!
“If all goes to plan the eggs should start hatching out in the coming weeks. 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,” he added.
Pipefish feed on small crustaceans such as mysid shrimps and tiny creatures called copepods. An adult snake pipefish needs to eat several hundred tiny shrimps in one day.
In the wild pipefish live on 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.