Australian Biological Resources Study

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CAAB: 37279002

Species Macroramphosus scolopax (Linnaeus, 1758)

Common Bellowsfish, Common Bellows-fish, Common Snipefish, Long Nosed Snipefish, Longspine Snipefish, Snipefish


Miscellaneous Literature Names



There has been considerable uncertainty over the status of species of Macroramphus. Two morphological forms have been recognised, distinguished by coloration and body form. In recent years, most workers treated both as distinct and widely distributed species, largely found in temperate environments. Clarke (1984) showed that males and females could be recognised of each morphological form using discriminate function analyses. Matthiessen et al. (2003) found similar results for western Ocean material. However, genetic studies of specimens from the eastern Atlantic did not find any genetic differences between the two forms. That study also found several individuals that were morphologically intermediate between the two forms (Robalo et al 2009). Subsequently, Noguchi et al. (2015) also found no genetic differences between the two forms. The scolopax form is known to be a benthic feeder and the gracilis form a planktonic feeder. Consequently Noguchi et al. (2015) suggested that these forms represent ecological morphotypes. They did note a genetic difference between material from the North Pacific and North-eastern Atlantic. Matthiessen et al. (2003) suggested that western Indian Ocean material differed morphologically from Australian material, which is also supported by publicly available DNA barcoding results. Fritzsche (2016) suggested that the separation of the two forms has not been fully resolved. Tentatively we retain the two names because they represent ecological forms, but recognise that they are probably not distinct species. At present Australian material has not been studied extensively and we retain the names scolopax and gracilis until more detailed studies are carried out.




New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia

Extra Distribution Information

South of Saumarez Reef, Coral Sea (22º12´S, 153º30'E) to southwest of Coral Bay, WA (23º25'S, 113º04'E), including TAS, also Elizabeth Reef, Lord Howe Rise and Norfolk Ridge; circumglobal, mostly in temperate latitudes.

IBRA and IMCRA regions (map not available)


Tasmania Province (10), Southeast Transition (11), Central Eastern Province (12), Lord Howe Province (14), Central Eastern Transition (15), Northeast Province (18), Norfolk Island Province (21), Central Western Shelf Province (29), Southwest Shelf Transition (30), Southwest Shelf Province (31), Great Australian Bight Shelf Transition (32), Spencer Gulf Shelf Province (33), Western Bass Strait Shelf Transition (34), Bass Strait Shelf Province (35), Tasmanian Shelf Province (36), Southeast Shelf Transition (37), Central Eastern Shelf Province (38), Central Eastern Shelf Transition (39), Central Western Transition (5), Central Western Province (6), Southwest Transition (7), Southern Province (8), West Tasmania Transition (9)

Other Regions

Coral Sea Islands Territory

Distribution References

Ecological Descriptors

Benthic, continental shelf, continental slope, schooling.

Extra Ecological Information



General References

Assis, C. A. 1992. On the systematics of Macrorhamphosus scolopax (Linnaeus, 1758) and Macrorhamphosus gracilis (Lowe, 1839). I. -- A preliminary biometrical approach. Boletim da Sociedade Portuguesa de Ciências Naturais 25: 5-19 [5]

Assis, C. A. 1993. On the systematics of Macrorhamphosus scolopax (Linnaeus, 1758) and Macrorhamphosus gracilis (Lowe, 1839). II-- multivariate morphometric analysis. Arquivos do Museu Bocage Nova série 2(22): 383-402 [399]

Borges, L. 2001. A new maximum length for the snipefish Macroramphosus scolopax. Cybium 25(2): 191-192 [191]

Clarke, T.A. 1984. Diet and morphological variation in snipefishes, presently recognized as Macrorhamphosus scolopax, from southeast Australia: evidence for two sexually dimorphic species. Copeia 1984(3): 595-608 [607] (As (tentatively) Macrorhamphosus elevatus)

Coleman, N. 1980. Australian Sea Fishes South of 30ºS. Lane Cove, NSW : Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd 309 pp. [83] (as M. elevatus)

Fricke, R., Kulbicki, M. & Wantiez, L. 2011. Checklist of the fishes of New Caledonia, and their distribution in the Southwest Pacific Ocean (Pisces). Stuttgarter Beiträge zur Naturkunde. Serie A (Biologie) Neue Serie 4: 341-463 [377]

Fritzsche, R.A. 2016. Macroramphosidae. pp. 2246-2248 in Carpenter, K.E. & De Angelis, N. (eds.). The Living Marine Resources of the Eastern Central Atlantic. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes. Bony Fishes Part 1 (Elopiformes to Scorpaeniformes). Rome : FAO Vol. 3 pp. 1511-2350. [2048]

Fritzsche, R.A. & Thiesfeld, K.G. 1999. Families Aulostomidae, Fistulariidae, Macrorhamphosidae, Centriscidae. pp. 2277-2282 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. [2280]

Gomon, M.F. 1994. Family Macroramphosidae. pp. 436-440 figs 388-390 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. [438]

Gomon, M.F. 2008. Macroramphosidae. pp. 480-484 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp. [482]

Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Checklist of the fishes of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 63: 9-50 [26] (As M. elevatus and M. scolopax)

Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Seahorses, Pipefishes and Their Relatives. Chorleywood, UK : TMC Publishing 240 pp. [216]

Kuiter, R.H. 2009. Seahorses and their relatives. Seaford, Australia : Aquatic Photographics pp. 331. [308]

Kuranaga, I. & Sasaki, K. 2000. Larval development in a snipefish (Macroramphosus scolopax) from Japan with notes on eastern Pacific and Mediterranean Macroramphosus larvae (Gasterosteiformes, Macroramphosidae). Ichthyological Research 47(1): 101-106 [101]

Matthiessen, B., Fock, H.O. & Westernhagen, H. von 2003. Evidence for two sympatric species of snipefishes Macroramphosus spp. (Syngnathiformes, Centriscidae) on Great Meteor Seamount. Helgoland Marine Research 57: 63–72

May, J.L. & Maxwell, J.G.H. 1986. Field Guide to Trawl Fish from Temperate Waters of Australia. Hobart : CSIRO Division of Marine Research 492 pp. [246]

McCulloch, A.R. 1924. Ichthyological items, No. 2. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 8(1): 61-76 figs 1-6 pls 11-14 [56]

McCulloch, A.R. 1929. A check-list of the fishes recorded from Australia. Part I. Memoirs of the Australian Museum 5: 1–144 [83] (as Macroramphosus elevatus, in part, and as M. velitaris)

Miyazaki, E., Sasaki, K., Mitani, T., Ishida, M. & Uehara, S. 2004. The occurrence of two species of Macroramphosus (Gasterosteiformes: Macroramphosidae) in Japan: morphological and ecological observations on larvae, juveniles and adults. Ichthyological Research 51: 256-262 [256]

Mohr, E. 1937. Revision der Centriscidae (Acanthoptergii, Centrisciformes). Dana Reports 13: 1-69 figs 1-33 pls 1-2 [36]

Munro, I.S.R. 1961. Handbook of Australian fishes. Nos 1–42. Australian Fisheries Newsletter 15–17, 19, 20: 1-172 [published as separates 1956–1961] [95] (653 as M. elevatus and 655 as M. velitaris)

Noguchi , T., Sakuma, K., Kitahashi, T., Itoh, H., Kano, Y., Shinohara, G., Hashimoto, J. & Kojima, S. 2015. No genetic deviation between two morphotypes of the snipefishes (Macroramphosidae: Macroramphosus) in Japanese waters. Ichthyological Research 62: 368-373

Paxton, J.R., Gates, J.E., Bray, D.J. & Hoese, D.F. 2006. Macroramphosidae. pp. 851-855 in Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & Allen, G.R. Fishes. In, Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Vol. 35. Volume 35 Australia : ABRS & CSIRO Publishing Parts 1-3, 2178 pp. [853] (Lists Silurus cornutus as a synonym though this name has not been applied in Australia)

Paxton, J.R., Hoese, D.F., Allen, G.R. & Hanley, J.E. (eds) 1989. Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Pisces: Petromyzontidae to Carangidae. Canberra : Australian Government Publishing Service Vol. 7 665 pp. [408] (also as M. elevatus and M. velitaris)

Robalo, J.I., Sousa-Santos, C., Cabral, H., Castilho, R. & Almada, V.C. 2009. Genetic evidence fails to discriminate between Macroramphosus gracilis Lowe 1839 and Macroramphosus scolopax Linnaeus 1758 in Portuguese waters. Marine Biology 156: 1733-1737

Smith, M.M. & Heemstra, P.C. (eds) 1986. Smith's Sea Fishes. Johannesburg : Macmillan South Africa xx + 1047 pp. 144 pls. [460]

Stewart, A.L. 2015. Families Syngnathidae, Aulostomidae, Fistulariidae, Macroramphosidae. pp. 1050-1072 in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 3 pp. 577-1152. [1070]

Whitley, G.P. 1964. A survey of Australian Ichthyology. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 89(1): 11-127 [37] (460 as M. elevatus and 462 as Orthichthys velitaris)


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
27-Jul-2017 SYNGNATHIFORMES 02-Jul-2017 MODIFIED Dr Doug Hoese Dr Matthew Lockett
25-Jun-2015 SYNGNATHIFORMES 24-Feb-2015 MODIFIED Dr Dianne Bray (NMV) Dr Doug Hoese (AM) Dr Matthew Lockett (AM)
27-Jul-2010 MODIFIED