Slender Snipefish, Macroramphosus gracilis
The Slender Snipefish, Macroramphosus gracilis, whose common Spanish name is trompetero flaco, is a member of the Snipefish or Macroramphosidae Family, known collectively as trompeteros in Mexico. This species is under current discussion within the scientific community as some believe that the Longspine Snipefish, Macroramphosus scolopax, is an adult Slender Snipefish and not a stand-alone species. Historically, this fish was known as Macrohamphosidae gracilis. The Snipefish Family contains twelve species that have currently been placed in five genera. Globally, there are two known species in the genus Macroramphosus, both of which are found in Mexican waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific.
The Slender Snipefish have moderately elongated bodies. Juveniles are black dorsally and transition to silvery blue ventrally. They have an elongated head with an extremely long, slender, and tube-like snout. They have large eyes and a very small mouth located at the tip of their snout. Their anal fin has 16 to 20 rays and their caudal fin is forked. They have two dorsal fins, the first found well behind mid-body with 4 to 8 stout spines and the second being elongated with 11 to 19 rays. Their pelvic fins are small and found well behind the mid-body and the pectoral fins. They are covered with small scales.
The Slender Snipefish are a pelagic species found in large schools over sandy and muddy bottoms from the surface to depths up to 500 feet. They reach a maximum length of 15.0 cm (5.9 inches). Juveniles feed on pelagic invertebrates and adults feed on benthic invertebrates. In turn they are preyed upon by Conger Eels, hakes, mackerels, monkfish, sharks, dolphins, and various sea birds. Reproduction is oviparous with dimorphic individuals that change colors during the mating process. Their planktonic eggs and larvae are pelagic. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
The Slender Snipefish have a circumglobal range and although not well documented they are believed to be present in all Mexican waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific. They are normally found far out at sea but will visit coastal waters on occasion.
The Slender Snipefish can be confused with the Longspine Snipefish, Macroramphosus scolopax (deeper body with red tinges; found at depths up to 2,000 feet), however both fish may actually be one and the same species.
The Slender Snipefish are exceedingly small and of limited interest to most. They are caught on occasion as a by-catch of bottom trawlers and utilized to make fishmeal and fish oil. From a conservation perspective they are considered of Least Concern due to their wide global distribution.
Slender Snipefish, Macroramphosus gracilis. Fish caught off the surface at night with a bait net having been attracted by light in coastal waters off San Clemente Island, November 2016. Length: 4.1 cm (1.6 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Loreto, Baja California Sur. Identification courtesy of H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA and reconfirmed by Dr. Robert N. Lea, Monterey, CA.