The Two Oceans Aquarium is home to many incredible species. We have different reasons to love them all: some are masters of camouflage, some are big-toothed predators and others fascinate us with their dazzling colours.
But some of the Aquarium’s inhabitants are remarkable in less obvious ways – so here are six fish with incredible snouts, and why we love them.
The aptly named longsnout pipefish (Syngnathus acus) are able to suck in passing prey very quickly, making them among the fastest feeding animals on Earth. The mouth opening on the end of their snout is on top, making it easier for them to see when their prey is in the perfect position to be sucked in.
Pipefish are closely related to seahorses, but have one distinct disadvantage, which we’ll reveal later. They occur along the coast of South Africa, reaching Walvis Bay in Namibia. Notably, however, they share waters with their cousins, the Knysna seahorse, off the southern Cape.
This wrasse (Gomphosus caeruleus) is a beautiful male – and a deadly predator. Birdmouth wrasse are beautiful tropical fish found throughout the Indian Ocean, including off the KwaZulu-Natal coast.
Its long snout can open wide and has a powerful bite force, able to crush crabs and even small clams. It serves a second function too – the bulky blue snout helps the birdmouth wrasse distinguish males from females and may play a role in sexual selection.
The snipefish (Macroramphosus scolopax) is widely distributed, found in sub-tropical environments in all three major oceans. Their long snouts and tiny mouths on the end enable them to hunt tiny shrimp and planktonic animals along the ocean floor. You may have noticed that their snouts curve upwards – this is so that they can see the bottom, where their mouth is (compare this to a different adaptation in the pipefish).
Longnose butterflyfish (Forcipiger flavissimus) enjoy living in pairs along rocky shores and reefs along the southern African coast. Their long snouts have a tiny mouth on the end, with even tinier teeth. They use their snouts to explore cracks and grooves in search of food – hoping to find a small worm, egg or even bite off the tentacle of a sea urchin.
Despite its odd shape, the Knysna seahorse (Hippocampus capensis) is actually a fish. It is also the only endangered species of seahorse, due to the threats facing its habitat in the southern Cape.
The seahorse’s long snout, like most of the snouts on this list, is used to search tiny cracks for food. However, the seahorse is actually able to expand its snout to eat prey larger than its snout (similar to a snake).
Seahorses are able to turn their heads, so having a long snout also allows them to quickly suck up a passing snack. This ability to turn their head gives seahorses a 30% greater reach than pipefish – something very important for an ambush predator.
Razorfish (Aeoliscus punctulatus) swim head-down-tail-up, an adaptation that allows them to camouflage themselves among seagrass, sea urchin spines and coral.
Their elongated snouts serve two purposes – firstly it aids their camouflage, adding to their enigmatic body shape. The second reason for their snout is that it allows them to suck water, capturing tiny plankton which the shrimpfish feeds on.
Which Aquarium fish has your favourite snout? Perhaps you prefer a stumpnose? Pay a visit and let us know!