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Pipefish from North Bull Island, Dublin

Pipefishes have this name because of their long and narrow snouts.

By Ana Queiros


The specimen consists of the whole animal preserved in alcohol. Its scientific name is Syngnathus acus Linnaeus, 1758 and its common name is greater pipefish. It has a long thin body measuring approximately 40 cm. The colour has faded due to the preservation in alcohol but it can still be seen that is was of a darker brownish colour above and lighter brown below.

The register entry for this specimen reads:

"Greater Pipe-fish (Syngnathus acus L.); […]; East-end of North Bull, Dublin Bay. Stranded in pool on falling tide [and] caught by a terrier! […]".

Where does it come from?

According to the register entry this pipefish was stranded during low tide on North Bull Island and it was caught by a terrier dog. North Bull Island is a very important place for nature conservation given the diverse habitats present and the many species which use them.

The island has been protected under various acts and was designated a National Nature Reserve in 1988 and a National Special Amenity Area since 1995. Today, dog owners are asked to keep dogs on leads to avoid any damage to the wildlife.

Where do pipefishes live?

Pipefishes are widespread throughout temperate to tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. The greater pipefish can be found along the coasts of the northeast Atlantic including the British Isles, the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean Sea.

They live in coastal areas particularly where seaweeds and sea-grasses are abundant. These environments help protect them from predators as they are not very good swimmers. They are also great places for them to find food. Pipefishes eat very small crustaceans and young fish which they suck into their small mouths.

Pipefishes, seahorses and seadragons

Pipefishes belong to the same family as seahorses and seadragons. They are very curious looking with their elongated body which is covered in an external skeleton.

In this family, the males are responsible for caring for the young. The females deposit their eggs on the underside of the trunk or tail of the males. In some species, the males have actual brood pouches where they carry the eggs until they hatch. In the case of the greater pipefish the young leave the pouch after about 5 weeks and are completely independent of their parents.

Learn More

This specimen is part of the research collection and is not on public display. There is however one specimen of greater pipefish in the Irish Room on the ground floor of the National Museum of Ireland - Natural History. You can also find other pipefishes in the same display case: look out for Syngnathus typhle (broadnosed pipefish), Nerophis ophidion (straightnose pipefish) and Entelurus aequoreus (snake pipefish).


Lythgoe, John & Lythgoe, Gillian. 1991. Fishes of the Sea. The North Atlantic and Mediterranean. Blandford. London.

Muus, J. Bent & Dahlstrom, Preben. 1981. Collins Guide to the Sea Fishes of Britain and North-Western Europe. Collins. London.

Nelson, Joseph S., 1994. Fishes of the World. Third edition. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.

North Bull Island Wildlife - Dublin Bay. 2015. Online at


Pipefish from North Bull Island, Dublin is located at:
In Storage

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Pair of Silver Reliquaries from the Dawson Collection

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Ring Brooch with a Christmas tale

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