Shorthead Seahorse, Hippocampus breviceps Peters 1869


Other Names: Knobby Seahorse, Short Snouted Seahorse, Short-head Seahorse, Short-headed Seahorse, Shortsnout Seahorse, Short-snouted Seahorse

A pair of Shorthead Seahorses, Hippocampus breviceps. Source: Rudie H. Kuiter / Aquatic Photographics. License: All rights reserved

Summary:

A small, well-camouflaged seahorse with a short snout, and fleshy tendrils on the head and body. Individuals are often seen amongst patches of Sargassum algae in Port Phillip, Victoria.

Video of a male Shorthead Seahorse giving birth


Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2018, Hippocampus breviceps in Fishes of Australia, accessed 18 Nov 2018, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/1535

Shorthead Seahorse, Hippocampus breviceps Peters 1869

More Info


Distribution

Endemic to temperate southern Australian waters from Port Welshpool, Victoria, and eastern Tasmania, to at least Venus Bay, South Australia, and possibly to Denial Bay in the Great Australian Bight, South Australia.

Usually inhabits shallow seagrass beds and macro-algae (Cystophora and Sargassum spp.) in bays, estuaries and on sheltered coastal reefs. Individuals occasionally occur on deeper sponge gardens.

The species is most common in Port Phillip where it aggregates in algal weed patches near sandy areas.

Features

Dorsal fin rays 19-22; Anal fin rays 4; Pectoral fin rays 14-15; trunk rings 11; tail rings 38-42; subdorsal rings 3-5.

Body small, slender and elongate, rather fleshy, often with fleshy tendrils on head and over back, appendages longer in males; trunk deep; snout moderately short, longest in juveniles, moderately shallow; strong constriction between head and trunk; body covered with thick, fleshy skin.

Spines absent; fleshy tubercles few or reduced, best-developed along dorsal-fin base and over superior tail ridge; subdorsal spines 3-4/0,0,1,1 or 3-4/0,0,1,0.

Coronet distinctly raised, with a fleshy covering; apex rounded with up to 5 fleshy filaments, one usually at centre.

Lateral line distinct with large pores on rings just above lateral ridge on trunk, continuing onto tail to about 20th tail ring; each pore usually with several papillae.

Size

Height to 100 mm.

Colour

In life, overall a mottled drab greyish to bright yellowish-orange with mix of numerous small black spots and black-ringed white ocelli over much of the trunk and the anterior part of the tail; ventral surface of tail with pale bars; dorsal fin with 2 darkish longitudinal bands. In preservative - mainly cream to pale brown with dark spots on head and ocelli in the form of tiny dark circles mixed with dark spots on head and trunk.

Feeding

The Shorthead Seahorse preys mostly on small crustaceans such as mysids, harpacticoid copepods, and gammarid and caprellid amphipods.

Biology

The sexes are separate, and the female uses an ovipositor to transfer her eggs into an elaborate enclosed pouch under the abdomen of the male. The male provides physical protection for the developing embryos, osmoregulates and aerates the embryos, and may provide some nourishment until the offspring are born.

Breeding occurs during the summer months and individuals do not form socially monogamous pairs. Males may brood 50-100 eggs at the same time and the young are born after an incubation period of about 25 days.

Males studied in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, remained in relatively small areas and appeared to give birth at night. Unlike some other seahorse species, adults live in mixed-sex groups and unlike a number of other seahorse and pipefish species, do not undertake daily social rituals.

Females produce 50 to 100 eggs per brood; egg diameter 1.6 mm. The pelagic larvae are morphologically similar to adults at birth; they cling to each other or floating weed at the surface. In Port Phillip Bay during the summer months near the full moon, young are seen in large numbers clinging to floating seagrass and alage on outgoing tides. Juveniles settle out at about 25 mm.

Fisheries

The species is reared commercially for the Australian and international aquarium trade.

Conservation

Listed as a genus (Hippocampus) on Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

IUCN Red List: Least Cooncern

EPBC Act 1999: Marine Listed

1. All syngnathids are listed as Protected Aquatic Biota in Victoria.
2. The Tasmanian Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 prohibits the take of all syngnathids in Tasmania (by non-permit holders, since Sept. 1994).
3. All syngnathids are subject to the export controls of the Commonwealth Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982 from 1 January 1998.

Remarks

Lourie (2016), Lourie et al. (2016) and Pollom (2016) regarded Hippocampus tuberculatus as a junior synonym of H. breviceps.

Similar Species

Similar to the Knobby Seahorse, Hippocampus tuberculatus, a species endemic to Western Australia. 

The Shorthead Seahorse may also be confused with juvenile Bigbelly Seahorses, Hippocampus abdominalis, which have 12-13 trunk rings (vs 11 trunk rings in H. breviceps).

Etymology

The species name breviceps is from the Latin brevis meaning short and -ceps from the Latin caput meaning head, referring to the short head of this species.

Species Citation

Hippocampus breviceps, Peters, 1870. Mber. K. preuss. Akad. Wiss. Berl. 1870: 710. Type locality: Adelaide, South Australia.

Author

Bray, D.J. 2018

Resources

Australian Faunal Directory

Shorthead Seahorse, Hippocampus breviceps Peters 1869

References


Castelnau, F.L. de 1875. Researches on the fishes of Australia. Intercolonial Exhibition Essays. 2. pp. 1–52 in, Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 : Official Record. Melbourne. 

Coleman, N. 1980. Australian Sea Fishes South of 30ºS. Lane Cove, NSW : Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd 309 pp. 

Dawson, C.E. 1994. Family Syngnathidae. pp. 440-475 figs 391-426 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs (as Hippocampus breviceps, but including H. tuberculatus)

Edgar, G.J. 2008. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Sydney : Reed New Holland 2nd edn, 624 pp. 

Foster, S.J. & Vincent, A.C.J. 2004. Life history and ecology of seahorses: implications for conservation and management. Journal of Fish Biology 65: 1-61 

Gomon, M.F. 1997. A remarkable new pygmy seahorse (Syngnathidae Hippocampus) from south-eastern Australia, with a redescription of H. bargibanti Whitley from New Caledonia. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 56(1): 245-253 

Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp.

Kendrick, A.J. & Hyndes, G.A. 2003. Patterns in the abundance and size distribution of syngnathid fishes among habitats in a seagrass-dominated marine environment. Estuarine and Coast Shelf Science 57: 631-640.

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Sea-horse romance. Sportdiving Magazine 16: 105-107.

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp. 

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Seahorses, Pipefishes and their Relatives. Chorleywood, UK: TMC Publishing, 240 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2001. Revision of the Australian Seahorses of the genus Hippocampus (Syngnathiformes: Syngnathidae) with descriptions of nine new species. Records of the Australian Museum 53: 293-340 

Kuiter, R.H. 2008. Syngnathidae. pp. 448-479 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp. 

Kuiter, R.H. 2009. Seahorses and their relatives. Seaford, Australia : Aquatic Photographics pp. 331. 

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs.

Lourie, S.A. 2016. Seahorses. A life-size guide to every species. Chicago : The Unversity of Chicago Press 160 pp. (as Hippocampus breviceps but including H. tuberculatus as a synonym)

Lourie, S.A., Pollom, R.A. & Foster, S.J. 2016. A global revision of the Seahorses Hippocampus Rafinesque 1810 (Actinopterygii: Syngnathiformes): Taxonomy and biogeography with recommendations for further research. Zootaxa 4146(1): 1–66 ((as Hippocampus breviceps but including Hippocampus tuberculatus as a junior synonym)

Lourie, S.A., Vincent, A.C.J. & Hall, H.J. 1999. Seahorses. An identification guide to the world's species and their conservation. Project Seahorse. x 214 pp. (as Hippocampus breviceps but including H. tuberculatus as a synonym)

Martin-Smith, K.M. & Vincent, A.C.J. 2006. Exploitation and trade of Australian seahorses, pipehorses, sea dragons and pipefishes (Family Syngnathidae). Oryx 40(2): 141-151

Moreau, M.-A. & Vincent, A.C.J. 2004. Social structure and space use in a wild population of the Australian short-headed seahorse, Hippocampus breviceps Peters 1869. Marine and Freshwater Research 55: 231-239.

Neira, F.J., Miskiewicz, A.G. & Trnski, T. 1998. Larvae of temperate Australian fishes: laboratory guide for larval fish identification. Nedlands, Western Australia : University of Western Australia press 474 pp.

Peters, W.C.H. 1869. Über neue oder weniger bekannte Fische des Berliner Zoologischen Museums. Monatsberichte der Königlichen Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin 1869: 703-711 

Pognoski, J.J., Pollard, D.A. & Paxton, J.R. 2002. Conservation Overview and Action Plan for Australian Threatened and Potentially Threatened Marine and Estuarine Fishes. Canberra : Environment Australia 375 pp.

Pollom, R. 2017. Hippocampus breviceps. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T10063A54904334. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T10063A54904334.en. Downloaded on 03 June 2018.

Scott, T.D., Glover, C.J.M. & Southcott, R.V. 1974. The Marine and Freshwater Fishes of South Australia. Adelaide : Government Printer 392 pp. figs.

Whitley, G.P. 1931. New names for Australian fishes. The Australian Zoologist 6(4): 310-334 1 fig. pls 25-27 (as Farlapiscis breviceps)

Quick Facts


CAAB Code:37282026

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern; EPBC Act Marine Listed

Depth:1-15 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:Height 10cm

Native:Endemic

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map