Davao Pughead Pipefish, Bulbonaricus davaoensis (Herald 1953)

A Davao Pughead Pipefish, Bulbonaricus davaoensis, at Ani Island, Ogasawara, Japan, depth 8m. Source: orangkucing / http://orangkucing.tumblr.com/. License: CC BY Attribution-ShareAlike


A small greenish eel-like pipefish that lacks the tube-like snout of most pipefishes. It has a pale blue median streak, white on top of the head, and lower margins of opercles bright red. This small secretive species lives amongst the Galaxy coral Galaxea fascicularis.

Video of a Davao Pughead Pipefish

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson, Bulbonaricus davaoensis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 04 Dec 2023, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/3167

Davao Pughead Pipefish, Bulbonaricus davaoensis (Herald 1953)

More Info


Only known in Australia from a single specimen collectedreat Barrier Reef off Cape Melville, Queensland. Elsewhere, the sepcies is widespread in the tropical Indo-West Pacific, from East Africa, the Philippines and across to Fiji. Inhabits coral reefs in association with the coral Galaxea fascicularis at 1.8-8 m.


Dorsal fin absent in adults; Pectoral fin absent in adults; Trunk rings 16-17; Tail rings 40-45, total subdorsal rings 7.0-8.5.Frontal process rounded and spine-like; male brood pouch below 20 tail rings, pouch folds voluminous. Fins are only present in the planktonic stage and the fin-ray counts are Dorsal fin 22-26; Pectoral fin 9-13. The dorsal fin originates on the 2nd-3rd tail ring.


Reaches 4.3 cm TL


Metamorphosed individuals are greenish above with a pale blue median streak, head white anteriorly, and the ventral margins of the opercles are bright red.


Although little is known of the feeding habits of this species, it is  likely to feed on or within the coral Galaxea fascicularis.


Males brood the eggs in an enclosed pouch on the underside of the tail. Eggs are 0.5-0.6 mm diameter; deposited in two transverse rows in two layers in the brood pouch.

This species has a long pelagic juvenile stage, and planktonic specimens have been collected in the upper 200 m over depths of 610 to 7120 m.


Bulbonaricus davaoensis is a listed Marine species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act 1999 Marine Species).


The planktonic and bottom-living stages of this pipefish differ markedly. Planktonic juveniles have dorsal and pectoral fins, and a typical tube-like pipefish snout. In contrast, those settled on the bottom appear ‘pugheaded' and lack dorsal and pectoral fins.

Similar Species

Bulbonaricus davaoensis has a round spine-like frontal process and lacks marginal spines or denticulations compared to the V-shaped frontal process and spinose or denticulate dorsal margins of Bulbonaricus brauni.


Bulbonaricus is from the Latin, bulbus (=bulb) and naricus (= nose). The specific name davaoensis is for the type locality, the Gulf of Davao.

Species Citation

Ichthyocampus (Bulbonaricus) davaoensis Herald 1953, Bull. U.S. Nat. Mus. 202(1): 242, fig. 37. Type locality: Davao Gulf, 6°44'N, 125°46'E, Mindanao Island, Philippines, surface.


Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson

Davao Pughead Pipefish, Bulbonaricus davaoensis (Herald 1953)


Allen, G.R. & M. Adrim. 2003. Coral reef fishes of Indonesia. Zool. Stud. 42(1): 1-72.

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Dawson, C.E. 1984. Bulbonaricus Herald (Pisces: Syngnathidae), a senior synonym of Enchelyocampus Dawson and Allen, with description of Bulbonaricus brucei n. sp. from Eastern Africa. Copeia 1984(3): 565-571.

Dawson, C.E. 1985. Indo-Pacific Pipefishes (Red Sea to the Americas). Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 230 pp.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (2008). Bulbonaricus davaoensis in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed 2008-04-15@09:58:19.

Hoese, D.F., D.J. Bray, J.R. Paxton & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells (eds). Zoological catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. 2178 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Seahorses, Pipefishes and their Relatives. TMC Publishing, Chorleywood, UK. 240 pp.

Paulus, T. 1999. Family Syngnathidae. pp 2264-2276, In Capenter K.E. & Niem V.H. (eds) The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide For Fisheries Purposes. FAO Vol. 4. pp 2069-2790.

Pogonoski, J.J., D.A. Pollard & J.R. Paxton. 2002. Conservation Overview and Action Plan for Australian Threatened and Potentially Threatened Marine and Estuarine Fishes, Environment Australia, Canberra. 375 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282038

Biology:Males brood the eggs

Conservation:EPBC Act Marine Listed

Depth:1.8-8 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:4.3 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map