Known locally as ‘korek telinga buaya,’ the alligator pipefish is in the family Syngnathidae, a close relative of seahorses. It can be found in the seagrass meadows of the Sungai Pulai estuary, in the western corner of Iskandar Puteri, Johor.
Just like seahorses, alligator pipefish wrap their tails around long seagrass leaves (of the Enhalus acoroides species) and sometimes hunts head down for its prey. It has a long thin snout (for which it is named) and sucks up tiny crabs, shrimp, zooplankton and fish for its meals. It is often well camouflaged in the seagrass because its colouration will match the green of the leaves or the brown of the substrate (seabed).
Also not unlike seahorses, after the female lays eggs (between 60 – 200 at a time), the male will hold them in a brood pouch until they hatch. Alligator pipefish are known to be faithful partners, with the male being the larger in size of the two.
This species is ‘data deficient’ according to the IUCN species list as there is not enough information to determine the sources of their trade. It is sold as a popular traditional cure (hailong) for cancer, asthma and impotence. It is also bred for the aquarium trade.
Kelab Alami conducts seagrass habitat walks in the seagrass meadows at the lowest tides, during which you might be able to spot this species. But you have to be lucky as they are increasingly harder to spot these days! Log on to kelabalami.weebly.com for more information.