In this Minute of relaxation, we would like to introduce you to a very cryptic creature, that is very much loved by divers and snorkellers alike, the Ornate Ghostpipefish, a.k.a. Solenostomus paradoxus. In this clip, we see the Ornate Ghostpipefish in one of its favourite hiding places, namely among the feeding arms of a crinoid named a Feather Star.
Take a minute to admire Ornate Ghostpipefish: Solenostomus paradox
Solenostomus paradox is a stunningly beautiful creature, that has a bizarre way to move around. It spends all of its life swimming with its head down. They can be recognised by their distinctive body form, with slender appendages on the body and fins. It has deeply incised membranes in the dorsal, caudal and ventral fins. Ornate Ghostpipefish come in different colourations; White-Red, Gold-Red or Black-Golden, and grow to a maximum size of around 12 cm.
Ghostpipefishes: The distant cousin of the seahorses
They are fairly widespread in the Indo-West Pacific and can be found in depths ranging from 5m-35m. Although they are closely related to Seahorses, they differ in several ways. An Ornate Ghostpipefish’s head is held at an angle to the body, but not to the extent of that of seahorses. Ghostpipefishes have two dorsal fins whereas seahorses only have one. In addition to that, Ghostpipefishes do not have an actual brood pouch in which they rear their offspring. Instead a female Ghostpipefish, as opposed to the male seahorse, looks after the eggs in a pouch formed by her modified ventral fins.
The next generation
These fins are greatly expanded and united with the abdomen along the upper margin, and together form an improvised brood pouch of sorts. The females carry up to 350 eggs in this ventral brood pouch. Solenostomus paradoxus can often be found in mating pairs, which makes it easier to spot the difference between the two. The females are much larger in size, with males being around 37% smaller. However, as with much other marine life, they are able to change their sex during their lifespan.
After the eggs hatch, they will be released into the ocean’s currents, to start their pelagic phase as tiny larvae. Once they have grown a little more mature, they start to settle on the sea floor. Transparent in colour they try to protect themselves from predators, by being as inconspicuous as possible. Before long, they begin to mature even more. When they reach the phase in their lives that they are old enough to breed, they head up to an area which offers them good hiding places, as well as potential mates. This is where they start to gain their beautiful colourations, camouflaging alongside Crinoids, Fan coral, Black coral bushes, and algae.
Scientific names: Not cryptic but descriptive
The scientific name Solenostomus paradoxus roughly translates to marvellous tube mouth, which honestly sounds way better than their common name. “Solen” means tube, “stoma” is the mouth, and “paradoxus” means marvellous/unexpected. Overall quite an apt description of this gorgeous creature. Their tube-like mouth turns out very useful in their hunt for food. As they slowly hover around in a face-down position, their tube-like mouth can create quite an under pressure when opened quickly. In this fashion, they suck up their unsuspecting prey. Solenostomus paradoxus mainly feeds on mysids, small shrimps, or other tiny crustaceans, but can also eat small fishes at times.
These incredible creatures are a delight to watch!
Want to hang out with more marine life to relax a minute?
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