This sub-order is characterised by the fact that the maxillary and praemaxillary bones are immovably connected on each side of the jaw. The endo-skeleton is only partially ossified, and the vertebral column often remains permanently cartilaginous. The exoskeleton is in the form of ganoid plates, scales, or spines. The ventral fins are generally wanting, and the air-bladder is destitute of a duct.
The most remarkable fishes of this section are the Trunk-fishes (Ostraci-ontidae, in which the body is entirely enclosed, with the exception of the tail, in an immovable case, composed of large ganoid plates, firmly united to one another at their edges.
Besides the Trunk-fishes, this section also includes the File-fishes (Balis-tidae) and the Globe-fishes (Gymnodontidae).
This is a small and unimportant group, mainly characterised by the peculiar structure of the gills, which are arranged in little tufts upon the branchial arches, instead of the comb-like plates of the typical Bony Fishes. The endoskeleton is only partially converted into bone, and the exoskeleton, by way of compensation, consists of ganoid plates. The swim-bladder is destitute of an air-duct.
The singular Sea-horses (Hippocampidae), now kept in most of our large aquaria, belong to this sub-order, but the only point about them which requires notice is the curious fact that the males in this family are provided with a sort of marsupial pouch, into which the eggs are placed by the female, and to which the young, when hatched, can retire if threatened by any danger. This singular cavity is only found in the males, and is situated at the base of the tail. More familiar than the Sea-horses are the Pipe-fishes (Syngnathidae), of which one species occurs commonly on our shores.