Oceanic Pipefish, Penetopteryx taeniocephalus Lunel 1881

A brownish pipefish with broad dark edged whitish bars on the head. Males have a white blotch surrounding 1-4 small black spots on the ventral-lateral portion of third to sixth trunk rings, and three black spots in a vertical row on the middle of the most lateral trunk rings.
Benthic sub-adults and adults dorsal and pectoral fins, while pouch larvae have well developed dorsal, pectoral and caudal fins.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Penetopteryx taeniocephalus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 02 Mar 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/4867

Oceanic Pipefish, Penetopteryx taeniocephalus Lunel 1881

More Info


Recorded from the Australian territories of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, in the eastern Indian Ocean. Elsewhere, the species is widespread in the Indo-West Pacific. Sub-adults and adults occur among gravel and coral rubble on shallow reefs.


Body rings 18-19 + 41-43 = 59-61; caudal fin 10.
Dorsal and pectoral fins absent in subadults and adults; dorsal-fin originating on tail in pouch larvae, with about 30 dorsal-fin rays.
Characterized by brownish color with dark edged white bars on head; males with white blotch surrounding 1-4 small black spots on ventral-lateral portion of third to sixth trunk rings and three black spots in vertical row on middle of most lateral trunk rings; absence of anal fin; subadult and adult without pectoral rays; 10 caudal rays; rings 18-19 + 41-43; continuous superior trunk and tail ridges; inferior trunk ridge ends at anal ring; confluent lateral trunk ridge with inferior tail ridge; length of snout 3.2-4.1 in head length; depth of snout 1.2-1.4 in snout length; head length 8.5-13.1 in SL (Ref. 90102).


Males brood the developing eggs in a pouch under the tail. Males may be brooding at a length of 5.4 cm SL.


The specific name taeniocephalus is from the Latin taenia (= band, ribbon) and  cephalus (= head), in reference to the dark-edged white bands or bars on the head.

Species Citation

Penetopteryx taeniocephalus Lunel 1881, Mémoires de la Société de Physique et d'Histoire Naturelle de Genève 27(2): 275, figs.1-1e. Type locality: Mauritius, Mascarenes, southwestern Indian Ocean.


Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

Oceanic Pipefish, Penetopteryx taeniocephalus Lunel 1881


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

Dawson, C.E. 1980. Notes on some Siboga Expedition pipefishes previously referred to the genus Syngnathus. Bijdragen tot de dierkunde 50(1): 221–226 See ref online

Dawson, C.E. 1985. Indo-Pacific Pipefishes (Red Sea to the Americas). Ocean Springs (Mississippi) : Gulf Coast Research Laboratory 230 pp. 293 figs pl. 1. 

Dawson, C.E. & Allen, G.R. 1978. Synopsis of the "finless" pipefish genera (Penetopteryx, Apterygocampus and Enchelyocampus, gen. nov.). Records of the Western Australian Museum 6(4): 391-411 figs 1-7 See ref online

Lunel, G. 1881. Mélanges ichthyologiques. Liste de quelques espèces de poissons, nouvelles pour la faune de l'île Maurice. Mémoires de la Société de Physique et d'Histoire Naturelle de Genève 27(2): 266-303 See ref at BHL

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

Whitley, G.P. 1933. Studies in Ichthyology No. 7. Records of the Australian Museum 19(1): 60-112 figs 1-4 pls 11-15 (described as Penetopteryx fowleri) https://doi.org/10.3853/j.0067-1975.19.1933.691

Zhang, X. & Pollom, R. 2016. Penetopteryx taeniocephalus (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T65372543A115431339. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T65372543A67622415.en. Downloaded on 21 September 2021.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37282750

Biology:Males brood the eggs

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-2 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:7.3 cm SL

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map