Syngnathidae (lat. Syngnathidae) is a family that includes brackish and freshwater fish species. The family name comes from the Greek, σύν (syn), meaning “together”, and γνάθος (gnathos), meaning “jaw”. This feature of the fused jaw is common to the entire family.
Origin and Description
The composition of the family includes 298 species of fish belonging to 57 genera. About 54 species belong directly to needle fish. The sea-dwelling chain-tailed needle (Amphelikturus dendriticus) native to the Bahamas is an intermediate type between pipits and needles.
It is characterized by:
- partially fused brood pouch;
- tenacious tail, like a skate;
- has a caudal fin resembling sea needles;
- muzzle slightly curved down, at an angle of 45° relative to the body.
The sizes of adults vary within 2.5/90 cm. They are characterized by an extremely elongated body. The head has a tubular stigma. The tail is long, and often serves as a kind of anchor, with which representatives of the species cling to various objects and algae. The caudal fin is small or completely absent.
Interesting fact! In fact, the name pipefish was originally used for European populations and was only later applied to North American fish by European settlers in the 18th century.
Appearance and Features
Sea needles are able to adapt to external environmental conditions and change their color, adjusting to the external landscape. They have a very diverse and changeable palette of colors: bright red, brown, green, purple, gray + there are many spotty combinations. In some species, mimicry is extremely developed. When they wiggle slightly in the water, they are almost indistinguishable from algae.
Some species are characterized by thick “armor” plates covering their bodies. The armor makes their body hard, so they swim by quickly inflating their fins. Therefore, they are relatively slow compared to other fish, but are able to control their movements with great precision, including hovering in place for a long time.
Curious! There are also known featherless seapikes that do not have fins and live in coral debris, plunging 30 cm into coral sand.
Where does the needlefish live?
The needle is a widespread family of fish found throughout the world. Its varieties can be found in coral reefs, open oceans, and shallow and fresh waters. They are found in temperate and tropical seas throughout the world. Most species are found in shallow coastal waters, but some are known as open ocean dwellers. There are 5 species in the Black Sea.
Quills are mostly associated with very shallow marine habitats or open sea surfaces. Some genera include species found in marine, brackish, and freshwater environments, while some genera are restricted to freshwater rivers and streams, including Belonion, Potamorraphis, and Xenenthodon.
The needle is very similar to North American freshwater fish (families Lepisosteidae ) in that they are elongated, with long narrow jaws filled with sharp teeth, and some types of needles — fish, called bright, but distantly related to real guys.
What does the needlefish eat?
Fun fact! The needle has no stomach. Instead, their digestive system releases an enzyme called trypsin that breaks down food.
Sea needles and seahorses have a unique feeding mechanism. They have the ability to store energy from the contraction of their epaxial muscles, which they then release. This results in extremely rapid head rotation, accelerating their mouths towards unsuspecting prey. With its tubular snout, the needle draws in prey at a distance of 4 cm.
In fry, the upper jaw is much smaller than the lower. During the adult stage, the upper jaw remains incompletely formed and therefore the juveniles cannot hunt as adults. During this time, they feed on plankton and other small marine organisms. As soon as the upper jaw is fully developed, the fish changes its diet and preys on small fish, cephalopods and crustaceans.
Character and lifestyle features
The needle is not the largest fish in the ocean and not the most cruel, but over time it has claimed several human lives.
Interesting fact! The needle can reach speeds of up to 60 km/h and jump out of the water for a long distance. They often jump over small boats instead of swimming under them.
Since quills float near the surface, they often jump onto the decks of small boats rather than walk around them. Jumping activity is enhanced by artificial light at night. Night fishermen and divers in the Pacific Ocean have been “attacked” by swarms of suddenly excited needles striving for a light source at high speed. Their sharp beaks are capable of inflicting deep stab wounds. For many traditional Pacific Islander communities that mainly fish on reefs in low boats, needlefish pose a greater risk of injury than sharks.
Two deaths have been attributed to igloo fish in the past. The first case occurred in 1977, when a 10-year-old Hawaiian boy, fishing with his father at night in Hanamulu Bay, was killed when a 1.0 to 1.2 meter long fish jumped out of the water and pierced him in the eye, injuring his brain. The second case concerns a 16-year-old Vietnamese boy who, in 2007, was pierced through the heart by a 15-centimeter long fish, which was huge for a species, while diving at night near Ha Long Bay.
Injuries and/or death from pipefish have also been recorded in later years. A young diver in Florida was almost killed when a fish jumped out of the water and pierced her heart. In 2012, German kitesurfer Wolfram Reiners was severely injured in the leg by a needle near the Seychelles.
May 2013 Kitesurfer Ismail Hater was stabbed just below the knee when a needle jumped out of the water while kitesurfing. In October 2013, a news site in Saudi Arabia also reported the death of an unnamed Saudi young man who died of a hemorrhage caused by a needle stab on the left side of his neck.
In 2014, a Russian tourist was nearly killed by a needle in the waters near Nha Trang in Vietnam. The fish bit her neck and left bits of teeth inside her spinal cord, paralyzing her. In early January 2016, a 39-year-old Indonesian woman from Palu, Central Sulawesi, was deeply injured when a half-meter-long needle jumped and pierced her just above her right eye. She swam in 80 cm deep water at Tanjung Karang, a popular holiday destination in the Donggala region of Central Sulawesi. She was subsequently pronounced dead a few hours later despite attempts to save her at the local hospital.
Soon after, pictures of her horrific injury circulated via instant messaging apps, while several local news sites also reported on the incident, with some misattributing the attack to a marlin. In December 2018, Needle was responsible for the death of a Thai Navy Special Forces cadet. The Japanese film All About Lily Chou-Chou has a brief scene about needles and shows a real picture from a nature guide that pierced a person before his eyes.
The body is very elongated and slightly compressed. The dorsal fin is usually inserted in front of the vertical through the beginning of the anal fin. Greenish-silver in front, whitish below. A silvery stripe with a dark edge runs along the side; a series of four or five spots (absent in juveniles) on the sides between the pectoral and anal fins. Dorsal and anal fins with dark edges.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Members of the family have a unique reproductive mode of reproduction, the so-called male pregnancy. Males lay eggs for several weeks in specialized nurseries. Mating takes place in April and May. The male is looking for a female and competes with other males when looking for a partner.
In the vast majority of species, the male in the “brood bag” bears eggs. A kind of closed chamber-nursery is located on the abdomen in the tail part of the body. The female lays eggs there in dosed portions. During this process, the eggs are fertilized.
Curious! The eggs are nourished by the blood vessels of the male.
The male pursues a slowly moving female, having caught up with her, he will begin to tremble from side to side until the pair is parallel to each other. The male assumes a light head-down position, with the anal fin coiled under the female's vent. The couple begins to tremble until the eggs appear. Each female produces about ten eggs a day.
Needles have an elongated “brood bag” with a longitudinal slot with two flaps on the sides. In many species, these valves are completely closed, thus isolating the embryos from external influences. Most species migrate to shallow water to spawn. There they produce up to 100 eggs. The eggs hatch in 10-15 days, resulting in numerous needle fry.
After hatching, the fry stay in the pouch for a while. The male, in order to let them out, must strongly arch his back. The offspring hides in the parent's bag, in case of danger, and in the dark. By observing the process, the researchers found that the male, in the absence of food, can eat his eggs.
Natural enemies of needle fish
Thin body, weak bones and habit of swimming close to the surface make them very vulnerable to predators.
Not only fish and mammals, but even birds hunt for needlefish:
- killer whales;
- golden eagles;
And this is not the whole list of predators that are not averse to feasting on needlefish.
Population and species status
Catching fish has almost no effect on the population. Most species have many small bones, and the meat is blue or greenish in color. The market potential for it is low, as the bones and green meat make it unattractive for consumption. The needle population is thriving, and none of the needle species is currently threatened.
Note! Needle predators have so far been reported to be responsible for two deaths, but are not usually harmful to humans.
Many divers and night fishermen unknowingly threaten this creature. Attacking humans is extremely rare, but pipefish can easily damage organs such as the eyes, heart, intestines, and lungs when it jumps out of the water. If the needle fish comes into contact with the vital organs of its enemy, death simply becomes inevitable for the victim.