Morphological and quantitative changes in paternal brood-pouch vasculature during embryonic development in two Syngnathus pipefishes


Tel.: +1304 293 5201; fax: +1304 293 6363; email:


Vascular corrosion casts of Syngnathus floridae and Syngnathus fuscus brood pouches were examined by scanning electron microscopy. Morphological and quantitative data on the vasculature of the paternal brood pouch during each stage of embryonic development were investigated to explore potential changes during brooding, to consider interspecific differences and to provide structural evidence for previously reported functional roles of the brood pouch. The brood pouches of both species are highly vascularized structures with cup-like arrangements of brood-pouch vasculature developing around each embryo shortly after fertilization and breaking down before fry release. The density and size of paternally derived blood vessels in contact with the embryos were found to be consistent for S. fuscus once this structure was established early in development. On the contrary, these vasculature measurements varied with early S. floridae brood stages when the embryo still relied heavily on the yolk sac. Diameter measurements of S. fuscus brood-pouch blood vessels were also comparatively smaller during these early developmental stages, suggesting that the structural stability and opportunity for greater transport via slower blood flow may contribute to greater paternal allocation. This is the first study to document changes in brood-pouch vasculature during specific stages of embryonic development, to show regression of this vasculature before fry release and to provide morphological data for two syngnathid species for which information on brood-pouch physiology is available.