Vanacampus vercoi


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Vanacampus vercoi
Species Authority: (Waite & Hale, 1921)
Common Name(s):
English Verco's Pipefish, Little pipefish , Flinder’s pipefish
Corythoichthys flindersi Scott, 1957
Syngnathus vercoi Waite & Hale, 1921

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable B1b(iii)c(ii)+2b(iii)c(ii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2009-01-29
Assessor(s): Czembor, C.A., Fritzsche, R., Matsuura, K., Collette, B., Nelson, J., Dooley, J., Carpenter, K.E., Morgan, S.K. & Bartnick, S.
Reviewer(s): Collen, B., Richman, N., Beresford, A., Chenery, A., Ram, M. & Foster, S.
Contributor(s): De Silva, R., Milligan, H., Lutz, M., Batchelor, A., Jopling, B., Kemp, K., Lewis, S., Lintott, P., Sears, J., Wilson, P. & Smith, J. and Livingston, F.

Vanacampus vercoi has a very restricted extent of occurrence with an area of occupancy suspected to be much smaller due to highly specific habitat requirements and low population densities. This species’ seagrass habitat is likely to continue declining as a result of coastal development and habitat degradation, and its area of occupancy is likely to undergo extreme fluctuations resulting from environmental changes, as has been seen in the past. This species is listed as Vulnerable under criterion B.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Vanacampus vercoi’s extent of occurrence (EOO) ranges from Spencer Gulf through to Encounter Bay, South Australia (Baker et al. 2008 and references therein, Pogonoski et al. 2002), but may extend wider (J. Baker pers. comm. 2009). The species has been recorded from central Spencer Gulf (including two dredged specimens from 1920, collected about 40 km seaward of Wardang Island, plus more recent specimens from beam trawl sampling during the early 2000s) and southeastern Spencer Gulf (Point Turton); southwestern Gulf St Vincent/southern Yorke Peninsula (e.g., Edithburgh and Stansbury area) and north-eastern Kangaroo Island (American River and Pelican Lagoon), and Encounter Bay. The species was reported to have previously been locally common in Pelican Lagoon, Kangaroo Island, from where the holotype was collected (Baker et al. 2008 and references therein).

The total area (extent of occurrence (EOO)) in which Vanacampus vercoi is distributed is approximately 9,620 km², which makes it one of the most geographically restricted Australian syngnathid species (Gomon et al. 1994). Its area of occupancy (AOO), however, can be inferred to be substantially smaller for two reasons. First, Vanacampus vercoi is restricted to very shallow seagrass and macroalgal beds (Baker et al. 2008, Pogonoski et al. 2002). Previous research has estimated that only 0.04–0.1% of the water area in some coastal Australian lagoons actually contains aquatic vegetation (Pollard 1994). Second, other Australian pipefish (Stigmatapora argus and S. nigra) have been estimated to have average densities of approximately 0.4 individuals/m² in seagrass beds, with a range from 0.1–0.8 individuals/m² (Smith et al. 2008). The expected limited habitat area and low densities for similar species indicate that Vanacampus vercoi would have, conservatively, an AOO of perhaps only several hundred square kilometres.
Australia (South Australia)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – eastern
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


This species is only known to be common within the Pelican Lagoon of Kangaroo Island (Kuiter 1996). There is no evidence of declines in this species (Pogonoski et al. 2002).

Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Vanacampus vercoi is found in marine vegetation such as macroalgae and seagrass, and may also be found in tidepools (Baker et al. 2008). They are restricted to depths of 2–4 m (Baker et al. 2008, Pogonoski, Pollard and Paxton 2002). Males carry the embyos in a brood pouch which is found under the tail (Breder and Rosen 1966).

Systems: Marine

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

Vanacampus vercoi is not known for any commercial trade.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

Vanacampus vercoi has one of the most restricted geographic distributions of all Australian syngnathids (Gomon et al. 1994) with an EOO estimated at 9,620 km² and a significantly smaller area of occupancy – perhaps of only several hundred km² – inferred from available habitat and known pipefish densities.

There have been examples of rapid and extensive seagrass die-back in the area where Vanacampus vercoi is found, which was the result of rapid environmental changes (Seddon et al.2000). Over 120 km² of seagrass meadows were lost in Spencer Gulf in one year. With an AOO very likely to be less than 1,000 km², this constitutes an extreme fluctuation in the area of occupancy for this species.

In addition, due to the coastal and shallow nature of Vanacampus vercoi’s distribution, it is potentially vulnerable to threats associated with habitat degradation and coastal pollution. Continued loss and degradation of the marine habitat that supports this species is caused by land-based urbanization, coastal development, stormwater runoff, effluent, industrial discharges, dredging, sea-dumping, overfishing, oil spills, antifoulants, and the developing aquaculture industry (Edyvane 1999, Ward and Young 1981), which are known to alter epibenthic seagrass habitat and fauna (Ward and Young 1982).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

There are no known species-specific conservation measures in place for Vanacampus vercoi. It is not known from any marine protected areas off South Australia.

Future research needs to concentrate on better understanding the population trends of this species.

Citation: Czembor, C.A., Fritzsche, R., Matsuura, K., Collette, B., Nelson, J., Dooley, J., Carpenter, K.E., Morgan, S.K. & Bartnick, S. 2012. Vanacampus vercoi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>. Downloaded on 03 September 2014.
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