Syngnathoides biaculeatus 

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Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Syngnathiformes Syngnathidae

Scientific Name: Syngnathoides biaculeatus
Species Authority: (Bloch, 1785)
Common Name(s):
English Alligator Pipefish, Double-ended Pipefish, Painted Flute Mouth, Spiraltail Pipefish, Spiraltail Pipefish
French Longue-flûte
Stigmatophora unicolor Castelnau, 1875
Sygnathoides biaculeatus (Bloch, 1785) [orth. error]
Syngnathoides blochii Bleeker, 1851
Syngnathus biaculeatus Bloch, 1785
Syngnathus tetragonus Thunberg, 1776
Taxonomic Source(s): Bloch, M.E. 1785. Naturgeschichte der ausländischen Fische. Berlin.
Taxonomic Notes:

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-01-01
Assessor(s): Bartnik, S., Morgan, Pogonoski, J., Pollard, D. & Paxton, J.
Reviewer(s): Martin-Smith, K. & Caldwell, I. (Syngnathid Red List Authority)
This species meets the criteria for a Data Deficient listing. The information available for Syngnathoides biaculeatus includes distribution and life history parameters such as growth, reproduction, and development data (Takahashi et al. 2003, Dhanya et al. 2005) but excludes data on population dynamics. Syngnathoides biaculeatus is a syngnathid that has a long history of use in traditional medicine (Shi et al. 1993, Pogonoski et al. 2002). While there is abundant information on the occurrence of this species, information on catch and trade levels is scarce. A listing of Data Deficient does not imply that the taxon is not threatened but that not enough information exists to quantify or even estimate extinction risk. Application of the category Data Deficient is a call for more research and scrutiny to be directed at this species. Until there exists more information on the main exploitation method for S. biaculeatus, (as it is not known if there are directed fisheries for the species or if individuals are caught only as bycatch), the distribution of any fisheries, and the volume of individuals that are caught and traded, the impact of the trade for traditional medicines cannot be assessed with rigour.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

Syngnathoides biaculeatus has a wide geographic range. It has been recorded in surveys and taxonomic overviews from the Red Sea and the African east coast to Knysna, South Africa (Dawson 1985, Dawson 1986).  It is also found in the Indo-Pacific from the east coast of India, throughout the South China Sea and has been recorded as far northward as northern Japan. It has been found in three states and one territory in Australia: Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland, and New South Wales (Paxton et al. 1989). It has been recorded near the islands of Micronesia and Samoa (Randall et al. 1997).


Australian Marine Protected Areas in Which Has Been Recorded (Pogonoski et al. 2002): In Australia, S. biaculeatus is found in the following marine protected areas: Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve, off northern Western Australia, Cartier Island Marine Protected Area, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Queensland, and Coburg Marine Park, in the Northern Territory (Pogonoski et al. 2002).


Museum Records Worldwide: in Australia, there are 106 specimens (standard length 100-288 mm), collected from a depth range of 0 to 5 m, ranging in geographical distribution from the Timor Sea, Northern Territory south-eastwards to Batemans Bay (35°44’S), New South Wales on the east coast of Australia, and from Ashmore Reef (12°13’S) southwards to Geraldton (28°46’S) on the west coast of Australia. Outside Australia there are specimens from the Andaman Islands, India, Malay Archipelago, Guam, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Specimens were collected between circa 1879 and 1998 (Pogonoski et al. 2002).


Other museum records are available from FishBase and the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) and include specimens collected from Suva Harbor in Fiji, Singapore, Kenya, and Yemen (Froese and Pauly 2007, Ocean Biogeographic Information System 2007). Specimens listed in Fishbase/OBIS have collection dates from 1828 to 2004.
Countries occurrence:
Australia (New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia); Egypt; Fiji; India; Indonesia; Japan; Madagascar; Marshall Islands; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Mozambique; Northern Mariana Islands; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Samoa; Solomon Islands; South Africa; Sri Lanka; Taiwan, Province of China; Tonga
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – western; Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – southwest; Pacific – western central
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


While S. biaculeatus has been reported by many authors in its range, there is no information available to our knowledge about population structure or sizes. Takahashi et al. (2003) (and earlier thesis Takahashi 2000) report on index of population size (CPUE) and seasonal changes in Moreton Bay, Queensland. Work in Bootless Bay, PNG (Barrows, Baine and Martin-Smith unpub. data) shows they are very common (found at all seagrass sites) in moderate abundance (2-6 individuals/100 m²) with no systematic changes across the year.

Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:


Syngnathoides biaculeatus is generally found in seagrass beds or algal flats in the protected shallow waters of lagoons and bays, its colouring matching plants well (Randall et al. 1997). Adults are found in large Sargassum rafts (Kuiter 1996) and juveniles are occasionally found among debris floating offshore (Dawson 1985). In Queensland, Australia, this species is found in estuaries, usually in association with Zostera seagrass, to which it anchors itself by means of its prehensile tail (Grant 1978).


Behaviour and Biology

Syngnathoides biaculeatus has a breeding season of between October and April in Moreton Bay, Australia (Takahashi et al. 2003) but year-round in Bootless Bay, PNG (Barrows et al. unpub). Males mature and can begin brooding at a length of about 180 mm (Dawson, 1985; Takahashi et al. 2003) although smaller mature males have been observed (Barrows et al., unpub). Brood size for males was comparable to that of other syngnathids, at 60-200 eggs (Takahashi et al. 2003) although ongoing research suggests that larger broods can occur (Barrows et al., unpub). The eggs can vary in colour (they can be clear, white, brown, or green) as they develop and are carried on the abdomen of the male until they hatch (Grant 1978, Takahashi 2000).


Syngnathoides biaculeatus is a poor swimmer, propelling itself by the winnowing action of the dorsal and pectoral fins (Pogonoski et al. 2002). Some individuals have been observed near the surface of the water or jumping out of the water entirely (Dawson 1986, Kuiter 1996). Prey items include shrimps, fish, and amphipods (Nakamura et al. 2003) as well as other tiny crustaceans (Allen and Swainston 1992).



Syngnathoides biaculeatus has been reported to achieve a maximum length of between 260 to 300 mm (Kuiter 1996, Takahashi et al. 2003) and displays significant size dimorphism, with males growing bigger than females (Takahashi et al. 2003). Although growth of S. biaculeatus has been reported as rapid over a life span of less than two years (Takahashi et al. 2003), more recent studies suggest that growth rates are slower and life spans can reach three years (Barrows et al. unpub data).


Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

There are three ways that S. biaculeatus is known to be used. First, wild specimens have been dried and used in the Chinese traditional medicine trade for at least 600 years (Shi et al. 1993). Second, individuals are kept and reared in public aquariums (Lange 1989, Koldewey 2005). Third, specimens are offered for sale to home/hobby aquarium owners through aquarium retailers (S. Bartnik, pers. obs.). It is not known from where specimens that supply either the traditional medicine trade or the aquarium trade originate.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

This species has a history of use in the Chinese traditional medicine trade. Known as Hailong (Shi et al. 1993), it has been observed for sale in traditional medicine stores in Sydney, Australia (C. Woodfield, pers. comm., Martin-Smith and Vincent 2006). The origins of the specimens that enter the medicine trade have not been established, although it is likely there are from wild populations as S. biaculeatus rearing in aquaculture facilities has not been reported. Live specimens are also sold as pets for home aquariums and this trade could threaten wild populations if individuals are being removed from the wild to fulfill the home aquarium industry demand (S. Bartnik, pers. obs).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species has been identified or protected by the following conservation actions.
  • In Australia all syngnathids became subject to the export controls of the Commonwealth Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982 on 1 January 1998 (Pogonoski et al. 2002).
  • In Australia, all syngnathids and solenostomids are listed as marine species under section 248 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation  (EPBC) Act 1999 (Pogonoski et al. 2002).
  • This species is listed as Data Deficient by the Australian Society for Fish Biology (ASFB) in its 2001 Conservation Status of Australian Fishes document, the most recent AFSB listing available (ASFB 2007).

Classifications [top]

13. Marine Coastal/Supratidal -> 13.5. Marine Coastal/Supratidal - Coastal Freshwater Lakes
13. Marine Coastal/Supratidal -> 13.4. Marine Coastal/Supratidal - Coastal Brackish/Saline Lagoons/Marine Lakes
12. Marine Intertidal -> 12.5. Marine Intertidal - Salt Marshes (Emergent Grasses)
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.10. Marine Neritic - Estuaries
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.4. Lagoon
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.7. Marine Neritic - Macroalgal/Kelp
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.2. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Rock and Rocky Reefs
3. Species management -> 3.4. Ex-situ conservation -> 3.4.1. Captive breeding/artificial propagation
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.1. International level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.2. Intentional use: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.4. Unintentional effects: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
1. Research -> 1.6. Actions
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.2. Harvest level trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.4. Habitat trends

♦  Medicine - human & veterinary
 National : ✓  International : ✓ 

♦  Pets/display animals, horticulture
 National : ✓  International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

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Citation: Bartnik, S., Morgan, Pogonoski, J., Pollard, D. & Paxton, J. 2008. Syngnathoides biaculeatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T40715A10357159. . Downloaded on 21 August 2017.
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