Long-nosed pipefish (Trachyrhamphus longirostris)

Also known as: long-head pipefish, longnosed pipefish, longsnouted pipefish, slender pipefish, straight stick pipefish, straightstick pipefish
Synonyms: Syngnathus ceylonensis, Syngnathus intermedius, Syngnathus longirostris, Trachyrhamphus intermedius, Yozia intermedia, Yozia longirostris
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassActinopterygii
OrderGasterosteiformes
FamilySyngnathidae
GenusTrachyrhamphus (1)
SizeMaximum length: 40 cm (2) (3)
Top facts

The long-nosed pipefish has yet to be classified on the IUCN Red List.

The long-nosed pipefish (Trachyrhamphus longirostris) belongs to the Syngnathidae, a family of fish consisting of seahorses, pipefishes, and the weedy and leafy sea dragons. This family is named for its distinctive jaw structure, with syngnathus meaning ‘fused jaw’ in Greek (4).

Like other pipefish species, the long-nosed pipefish has a slender, elongate body (3) (5) and a small mouth located at the tip of a long, tube-like snout (5). The snout, which is more or less straight in smaller individuals but slightly curved in most adult long-nosed pipefish, has a ridge running down the middle of its upper surface (3) (6). It is this distinctive characteristic that inspired the long-nosed pipefish’s scientific name, with the genus name Trachyrhamphus coming from the Greek words trachys, meaning ‘rough’, and rhamphos meaning ‘bill’ (2) (3). The species name, longirostris, comes from the Latin words longus, meaning ‘long’, and rostrum, meaning ‘beak’, in reference to the tubular snout (3).

Interestingly, pipefish species do not have scales, but are instead encased in a series of bony rings (5). In the long-nosed pipefish, the base colour of these rings is tan to brown (3) (6) or greyish (2) (3), and either plain or mottled (3) (6). Although this species does not usually have highly distinctive markings (3) (6), it does often have whitish scribble-like striations on its head, as well as pale, diamond-shaped specks on the sides of its body (2) (3). Occasionally, the long-nosed pipefish may have 12 to 13 dark bars on its body, running across its back (3) (6).

The snout of the long-nosed pipefish is often darker than the body (3), while the pectoral fins and dorsal fin are transparent, with the dorsal fin sometimes being patterned with one to three short, brownish bars (6). The tail fin, also known as the caudal fin, is generally rounded (3), and is brown, getting paler towards the tip (3) (6).

A tropical species (3), the long-nosed pipefish occurs in the Western Indo-Pacific (1) (2) (3). It can be found from the Red Sea and East Africa eastwards to Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and Australia (1) (2) (3) (6). In Australian waters, the long-nosed pipefish has been recorded along the northern and eastern coasts (6), from North West Cape, Western Australia, northwards around to Magnetic Island, Queensland (3).

A marine species, the long-nosed pipefish is thought to occur near the sea floor on the continental shelf (2), in habitats with muddy or sandy bottoms (3) at depths of between 16 and 91 metres (2) (3). It is known to be found in association with algae, seagrasses and sponges (3), and tends to enter sheltered, muddy estuaries to reproduce (2).

Although little information is available on the specific biology of the long-nosed pipefish, like other pipefish this species is known to prey on small planktonic crustaceans (3) (5). The long-nosed pipefish lies motionless on the ocean floor, only raising its head slightly to feed (3), which it does by sucking prey up into its elongated snout (4).

As in other pipefish and seahorses, the long-nosed pipefish has an unusual breeding system in which the male is in charge of egg incubation (5). The female long-nosed pipefish has a specialised organ known as an ovipositor (2), which is used to deposit the eggs onto the underside of the male, where they are fertilised (5). The male carries the eggs around in a semi-exposed ‘brood pouch’ located under its tail until they hatch, and the male then gives birth to live young (2) (3) (4) (5). The pouch is surrounded by blood capillaries to supply oxygen to the developing embryos (5). Breeding in the long-nosed pipefish often takes place on the bottom of sheltered, muddy estuaries (2).

Like many other species of seahorse and pipefish, the long-nosed pipefish is collected to be sold in Asian markets as curios, aphrodisiacs or medicines (3) (5). This species is also collected for the aquarium trade, and in addition is known to be taken as bycatch in Australia’s Northern Prawn Trawl fishery (3).

While the long-nosed pipefish is widespread, it is not thought to be a common species (7). Although there are currently no known conservation measures in place specifically for the long-nosed pipefish, this species is nationally protected in Australia through its listing under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (3).

Marine Bioregional Plans have been developed for four of Australia’s marine regions to improve understanding of Australia’s oceans, identify the conservation values of each marine region, and set out broad biodiversity priorities and objectives. As part of these plans, the long-nosed pipefish has been identified as being of conservation value in the North and Northwest Marine Regions (8).  

Find out more about the long-nosed pipefish:

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This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. Species 2000 and ITIS Catalogue of Life (May, 2013)
    http://www.catalogueoflife.org/
  2. FishBase - Trachyrhamphus longirostris (May, 2013)
    http://www.fishbase.org/summary/Trachyrhamphus-longirostris.html
  3. Fishes of Australia - Straightstick pipefish (May, 2013)
    http://www.fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/4040
  4. BBC Nature - Syngnathidae (May, 2013)
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Syngnathidae
  5. Carpenter, K.E. (2002) Syngnathidae. In: The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 4: Bony Fishes Part 2 (Mugilidae to Carangidae). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. Available at:
    http://www.fao.org/docrep/009/x2400e/x2400e00.htm
  6. Dawson, C.E. (1984) Review of the Indo-Pacific Pipefish genus Trachyrhamphus (Syngnathidae). Micronesica, 18: 163-191.
  7. Jennings, G.H. (1997) The Sea and Freshwater Fishes of Australia & New Guinea. Part 2. Calypso Publications, London.
  8. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (2012) Trachyrhamphus longirostris. In: Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra. Available at:
    http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=66281