Pugnose Pipefish, Pugnaso curtirostris (Castelnau 1872)

Other Names: Pug-nose Pipefish, Pug-nosed Pipefish, Short-snouted Pipefish, Tortoiseshell Pipefish

A Pugnose Pipefish, Pugnaso curtirostris, at Normanville, South Australia. Source: David Muirhead / MLSSA, mlssa.asn.au. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike


A brown pipefish often with a pale or variegated mottled pattern, and faint rectangular dark brown blotches usually on the lower half of most trunk rings. Some individuals are plain with 12-14 narrow dark bars dorsally, while others are completely mottled or variegated.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2022, Pugnaso curtirostris in Fishes of Australia, accessed 25 May 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3128

Pugnose Pipefish, Pugnaso curtirostris (Castelnau 1872)

More Info


Southern Australia, from Corner Inlet, Wilsons Promontory (Victoria), northern Tasmania and the Bass Strait islands, to Jurien Bay and the Houtman Abrolhos Islands (Western Australia). Uncommon in Gulf St Vincent and Spencer Gulf, South Australia. Inhabits shallow seagrass, eelgrass and algal habitats in sheltered bays and estuaries to a depth of about 11 m. Juveniles often shelter amongst decaying seagrass leaves.


Dorsal fin 21–25; Pectoral fin 8–11; Anal fin 2–3; Caudal fin 10; trunk rings 17–19; tail rings 41–44; subdorsal rings 1.75–0.25 + 3.25–5.00 = 4.50–5.75.

Body elongated, upper surface usually flat to slightly convex, trunk shallow; head aligned with body; snout short, 33–40% HL; snout depth 29–59% snout length; median dorsal snout ridge low, entire; longitudinal opercular ridge vestigial or absent in adults and subadults, usually complete and angled upward towards gill opening in young; principal body ridges often indistinct; superior trunk and tail ridges discontinuous near rear of dorsal-fin base; inferior trunk and tail ridges continuous; lateral trunk ridges not confluent with tail ridges; tail not prehensile. Females slightly deeper-bodied than males.

Dorsal fin slightly closer to tip of snout than to tip of tail, base of moderate length; anal fin tiny, below front half of dorsal fin; caudal fin very small.


To 19 cm SL.


Colour variable, mostly pale brown with faint quadrate dark brown blotches on lower half of most trunk rings. Some individuals are plain with 12–14 narrow dark bars dorsally, others are mottled or variegated throughout.


Carnivore - feeds on small crustaceans, including mysid shrimps, sucked off the substrate.


Reproductive mode: Males brood eggs in an enclosed pouch on the underside of the tail just behind the anal fin. The pouch has large overlapping skin flaps to protect the developing eggs. By about 14 cm SL, males may be brooding eggs during late spring and summer.

Eggs: Not described; males brood between 50 to 90 eggs per brood in two to four rows in pouch.

Larvae: Not described.


IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern


Short-snouted pipefishes such as the Pugnose Pipefish feed mostly on slower-moving prey compared with long-snouted pipefishes.

Similar Species

Pugnaso is most similar to species of the genus Vanacampus, differing in the absence of the opercular ridge in subadults and adults, in the reduced development of other head ridges, in the absence of ridges on the pectoral fin base and in usually having slightly convex dorsal and ventral surfaces of the tail (depressed or concave in Vanacampus).


Pugnaso is from the Latin nasus (nose). The specific name curtirostris is from the Latin curtus (short) and rostrum (snout) in reference to the short snout of this species.

Species Citation

Syngnathus curtirostris Castelnau 1872, Proc. Zool. Acclim. Soc. Vict. 1: 243. Type locality: Adelaide, St. Vincent Gulf, South Australia.


Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Pugnose Pipefish, Pugnaso curtirostris (Castelnau 1872)


Aylesworth, L. & Pollom, R. 2016. Pugnaso curtirostris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T65373532A67621208. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T65373532A67621208.en. Accessed on 26 August 2022.

Castelnau F.L. de 1872. Contribution to the ichthyology of Australia. 2. Note on some South Australian fishes. Proceedings of the Zoological and Acclimatisation Society of Victoria 1: 243–248.

Dawson, C.E. 1978. Syngnathus parvicarinatus, a new Australian Pipefish, with notes on S. sauvagei (Whitley) and Leptonotus caretta (Klunzinger). Copeia 1978(2): 288–293.

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

Dawson, C.E. 1984. Synopsis of Australian pipefishes usually referred to the syngnathine (tail-pouch) genera Syngnathus, Leptonotus and Histogamphelus. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 45: 71-123

Dawson, C.E. 1994. Family Syngnathidae. pp. 440-475 figs 391-426 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs.

Hamilton, H., Saarman, N., Short, G., Sellas, A.B., et al. 2016. Molecular phylogeny and patterns of diversification in syngnathid fishes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 107: 388-403 + supplement 1-4 + 5 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2016.10.003

Hoschke, A., Whisson, G. & Moore, G.I. 2019. Complete list of fishes from Rottnest Island. pp. 150-161 in Whisson, G. & Hoschke, A. (eds). The Rottnest Island fish book. 2nd ed. Perth : Aqua Research and Monitoring Services.

Hutchins, J.B. 1997. Checklist of fishes of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia. pp. 239-253 in Wells, F. (ed.) The Marine Fauna and Flora of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum. 

Hutchins, J.B. 2005. Checklist of marine fishes of Recherche Archipelago and adjacent mainland waters. pp. 425-449 in Wells, F.E., Walker, D.I. & Kendrick, G.A. (eds). Proceedings of the Twelfth International Marine Biological Workshop: The Marine Flora and Fauna of Esperance, Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum.

Kendrick, A.J. & Hyndes, G.A. 2005. Variations in the dietary compositions of morphologically diverse syngnathid fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes 72: 415–427.

Klunzinger, C.B. 1880. Die von Müller'sche Sammlung australischer Fische in Stuttgart. Sitzungsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien 80(1): 325-430 pls 1-9 (described as Syngnathus caretta, type locality Queens Cliff, Port Phillip, Victoria, Australia) See ref at BHL

Kuiter R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Crawford House Press, Bathurst. 437 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2008. Syngnathidae. pp. 448-479 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2009. Seahorses and their relatives. Aquatic Photographics, Seaford, Australia. Pp. 1–333.

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes Of Tasmania. Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority, Hobart. 563pp.

Scott, E.O.G. 1961. Observations on some Tasmanian fishes. Part X. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 95: 49-65.

Whitley, G.P. 1941. Ichthyological notes and illustrations. The Australian Zoologist 10(1): 1-50 figs 1-32 pls 1-2 

Whitley, G.P. 1948. Studies in Ichthyology No. 13. Records of the Australian Museum 22(1): 70-94 figs 1-11

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282021

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-11 m

Habitat:Sheltered bays, estuaries

Max Size:19 cm SL


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