The guest star in this minute of visual meditation is the Halimeda ghost pipefish (Solenostomus halimeda). Just take a minute to admire its camouflage.
Halimeda ghost pipefish (Solenostomus halimeda)
The name of this creature is derived from the Greek words soleno, meaning tube-like, and stoma, meaning mouth. Whereas the word “Halimeda” comes from the green calcareous algae, in which this creature can most often be found.
Meet the family: Syngnathidae
Although they’re closely related to pipefishes and seahorses of the family Syngnathidae, they differ from Syngnathids in both structure and behaviour. Instead of armoured rings, ghost pipefish are covered with large bony plates.
The secret life of Solenostomus halimeda
They tend to swim upside down through their preferred habitat, which makes them very difficult to spot. Feeding on tiny crustaceans, especially mysids, which are rapidly sucked in through the long tubular snout, ghost pipefish are ambush predators, that stealthily approach their unsuspecting prey from above, in this head-down position.
Halimeda ghost pipefish: The next generation
Unlike Syngnathids, where the males take care of the fertilised eggs in a special pouch, with Solenostomidea it’s the female who carries the eggs in a brood pouch formed by the fusion of her pelvic fins, which are continuously fanning fresh water over the eggs. Most species of ghost pipefish spent a relatively long period floating around in the ocean as plankton, reaching almost adult length before they finally settle onto the reef. This means that they have a wide geographic range since they can travel long distances after they are born. However, since they only spend the adult/reproductive part of their lives on the reef, it also means that divers have a very short time frame to find this creature in a particular spot before they disappear. This time frame is no doubt made even shorter by the large number of predators inhabiting the reefs.
They’re generally found living in pairs with the smaller, skinnier of the two males and the larger individual, with bigger fins than the female. The Halimeda ghost pipefish is with its maximum of 7 cm, the smallest of the 6 scientifically recognized species of Solenostomidea. As their name suggests, they’re to be found among Halimeda algae growing on the reef. The head of a Halimeda ghost pipefish is almost equal to the length of the body. Their rounded fins are perfectly resembling the growth segments of the Halimeda algae it prefers to inhabit. The species is highly variable in colour (from bright green or red to white) and is sometimes covered with fine filaments that give the fish a ‚hairy‘ appearance. A very special little critter that is worth spending some time with. Should one be fortunate enough to come across one …