Worldwide in tropical and temperate marine waters as well as in temperate freshwaters of the Northern Hemisphere. Species are more abundant in the tropical Indo-West Pacific region, where several undescribed pipefish species are known. Some species are widespread (e.g., the red cornetfish, Fistu-laria petimba), whereas others are very restricted in distribution (e.g., Festucalex cinctus off central New South Wales and southern Queensland, Australia). A few species with wide distributions, such as Hippocampus erectus and Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus, may require subdivision.
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