Delighted staff at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay are celebrating after the surprise birth of more than a dozen tiny pipefish.

Pipefish are straightened-out members of the seahorse family and like seahorses it is the male rather than the female which gives birth to the young.

Aquarists spotted the centimetre long newborns when they arrived for work and were delighted with the unexpected arrivals. Curator Matt Slater said: “Successful breeding is one of the key indicators to a creature’s health and general well-being - if that’s the case then it certainly looks as if we’ve got some very happy pipefish indeed!

“The babies are exact replicas of their parents and dad appears to be taking good care of his giant new family.

“We’re keeping a close eye on things as it’s likely some of the other males may also be about to give birth as well,” he added.

Male pipefish carry the babies and gives birth to them via a special brood pouch on their stomach The female pipefish lays her eggs in this pouch. The male then fertilises them and incubates them until they’re ready to emerge into the great outdoors.

Once born the babies stick close to dad for the first few days, darting back into his special pouch when danger looms.

In the wild pipefish are often found in rockpools although their seaweed-like bodies mean they are easily overlooked.