Syngnathus avus Pipefish

This stunning specimen of Syngnathus avus is so finely detailed and shows off the beautiful biology of the prehistoric pipefish.

The Syngnathidae family is characterised by the elongated snouts and dermal armour of pipefish and seahorses. Modern pipefish live in temperate to tropical waters in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans and like seahorses, are characterised by the unusual form of reproduction--male pregnancy. 

Pipefish have a slender, elongated body with ring-like exoskeletal armored bands, a long tail, tube-like snout, small gill openings and are known to swim in a vertical motion. All pipefish species have at least a dorsal fin that serves as their way to get around--some also have caudal fins or prehensile tails. In general, they are fairly weak swimmers in open water and reside closer to the seafloor. 

The ancestors to today’s seahorses and pipefish date back to the Oligocene, roughly 30 million years ago. As this specimen of Syngnathus avus shows, their appearance has changed very little over millions of years as indicated by their fossil remains. Tubular mouths suggest they fed on small crustaceans like their modern relatives. 

Fossil pipefish are rare fossils to come by as they are only found in a handful of localities in Europe and in California, with Italy no longer exporting the specimens they have. Syngnathus specimens can be found throughout the Miocene shale and deposits of California, but they still are an extremely rare fossil to find. It is unusual because pipefish specimens have not been found in Lompoc--the largest deposit of fossil fish in California. Syngnathus fossils are often found in similar positions suggesting their remains were aligned by currents in their depositional environment.

This exquisitely preserved pipefish measures 7.5" on the diagonal and displays details like a finely preserved dorsal fin and caudal fin as well as its armored plates. 
 

 

Pipefish
Syngnathus avus
Miocene
Vaquero Formation
San Luis Obispo County, CA