Sunday 27 February 2011

Snake Pipefish - (Entelurus aequoreus)

Many Thanks to Martin Armstrong for this photo of a recently deceased Snake Pipefish he found at Machir Bay.

The Snake Pipefish or Entelurus aequoreus used to be a relatively uncommon fish until about five years ago. Certainly they were never recorded in the north but one year a few appeared and then their population suddenly exploded. I have seen over a hundred on one dive and crab fishermen, who have never before come across one, now find their ropes and creels covered in them. They are common in rock pools and are often seen offshore up on the surface where sea birds catch them for food. However, due to having a somewhat crunchy external skeleton, they usually get regurgitated. Some species of birds, particularly Auks and Terns, have resorted to trying to feed Snake Pipefish to their chicks as a substitute for their more normal diet of Sand-eels, which are in serious decline due to over-fishing and climate change. However, this has proved disastrous as the Pipefish have limited nutritional value compared to the oily flesh of Sand-eels and their hard, long bodies have caused many chicks to choke.

Nobody has been able to explain why this sudden population increase has come about but it is possible they may vanish as quickly as they arrived.

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