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The Little Fish Dude That Just Gave Birth on the Oregon Coast

Published 08/02/23 at 5:21 p.m.
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

The Little Dude That Just Gave Birth on the Oregon Coast

(Seaside, Oregon) – You might want to send him a Mother's Day card after this. That's right: him. (Photo Allysa Casteel of Seaside Aquarium)

It's a case of some truly surprise science for the Oregon coast and Washington coast. One little fish from the Oregon coast just gave birth in a fish tank in Seaside, and it's a he, not a her.

Seaside Aquarium last week celebrated some new occupants after its male pipefish gave birth to a bunch of little ones.

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The bay pipefish (Syngnathus leptorhychus) has a lot of interesting aspects, including the fact the males give birth and not the females. Related to the sea horse, the male pipefish gets eggs deposited into it by the female, set inside the stomach pouch.

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“For 3 weeks you can observe the development as the egg sacks change color, and when it’s time for hatching the stomach just splits open,” the Seaside Aquarium said on social. “From a line down the center, each baby pipefish about 1 cm long squeezed out and immediately started to search for food.”

You'll notice a difference in color between Casteel's shots and those of Tiffany Boothe: that's because there was distinctly different lighting involved.


Bay pipefish baby, courtesy Casteel

There's a lot more to the bay pipefish as well, such as they're the closest thing we have to sea horses here on the Oregon coast. Those don't exist here – it's too cold. While the bay pipefish doesn't have that really elegant curl in its shape that its warm-water cousins do, its head is not too dissimilar.

That's by far and away not the only cool thing about them.

Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe has talked about them in the past.

“The bay pipefish may be hard to spot at first glance, hiding comfortably in the midst of their favorite plants,” Boothe said. “The thin, elongated, green bodies perfectly sway within the eelgrass where they are found in bays.”


Photo Tiffany Boothe

In fact, if you find a big patch of green stuff in the surfline, especially eel grass, there may be pipefish hiding in there even when it's washed up on the beach. That happens anywhere on the Oregon coast or Washington coast.

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Pipefish don't have scales. Instead, they're surrounded by jointed, bony and circular plates. This makes them feel more like a shell, if you touch it, Boothe said.

“Their long, tubular mouths are toothless and when they eat, they just get really close to their tiny prey and slurp,” she said. “As if they aren't already an interesting enough specimen, watching them swim is really comical. Using their heads to steer while they leisurely glide through the water, they really are a fun fish to observe.”

Want to see these wee, tiny ones? Hit the Seaside Aquarium soon. 503-738-6211.



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Bay pipefish baby, courtesy Casteel

Photo Seaside Aquarium's Boothe

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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