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


The Pugnose Pipefish is endemic to southern Australia and is the only species in the genus Pugnaso.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson, Pugnaso curtirostris in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 May 2022, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3128

Pugnose Pipefish, Pugnaso curtirostris (Castelnau 1872)

More Info

Max Length Australia



Endemic to  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 about 11m. Juveniles often found amongst decaying seagrass leaves.


Meristic counts: 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.

Head and Body: 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.

Fins: 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.


CITES: not listed.

IUCN Red List Status: not evaluated.

Australian Commonwealth legislation: Marine listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

State Legislation: Listed as protected under the Victorian, Tasmanian and South Australian Fisheries Management Acts.


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,  Gulf St Vincent, South Australia.


Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson

Pugnose Pipefish, Pugnaso curtirostris (Castelnau 1872)


Castelnau F.L. de 1872. Contribution to the ichthyology of Australia. 2. Note on some South Australian fishes. Proc. Zool. Acclim. Soc. Vict. 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. 1994. Family Syngnathidae (pp. 440–474). In Gomon, M.F., C.J.M. Glover & R.H. Kuiter (eds.) The fishes of Australia’s south coast. State Print, Adelaide. 992 pp, 810 figs.

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

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

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

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

Paxton, J.R., J.E. Gates, D.F. Hoese & D.J. Bray. 2006. Syngnathidae (Pp. 810–846). In  Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (Eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. Fishes. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing, Australia., 3 vols.

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.

Scott, E.O.G. 1961. Observations on some Tasmanian fishes. Part X. Papers and Proc. Roy. Soc. Tasmania 95: 49-65.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282021

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map