Body round, very obsoletely octangular anteriorly: snout short; much narrower, vertically, than the head: dorsal and vent considerably before the middle of the entire length.
S. Ophidion, Bloch, Ichth. pl. 91. f. 3. Gmel. Linn. torn. 1. part iii. p. 1456.? S. anguineus, Jen. Cat. of Brit. Vert. An. 30. sp. 176. Snake Pipe-Fish, Shaw, Gen. Zool. vol. v. part ii. p. 453. pl. 179. (Copied from Bloch). Longer Pipe-Fish, Low, Faun. Ore. p. 179.
From twelve to fourteen inches. According to Bloch, from one to two feet.
(Form). Very similar to the last species, but more slender and tapering in proportion to its length: anterior part of the body scarcely thicker than a goose-quill, presenting the same angles as the S. cequoreus, but with these angles so ill-defined and obsolete, as to appear on the whole nearly round; beyond the vent the body is obsoletely quadrangular, becoming quite round near the extremity of the tail, the tip of which is compressed into a very minute rudimentary caudal fin: transverse shields on the trunk not separated by any well-marked lines, so as scarcely to admit of being counted: head one-twelfth of the entire length, similar, as is also the snout, to that of the S. cequoreus: dorsal much forwarder than in that species, entirely before the middle; the distance from the last ray to the end of the tail more than half as long again as that from the end of the snout to the commencement of the fin: vent considerably before the middle of the entire length, but in relation to the dorsal situate as in the & cequoreus, three-fourths of that fin lying in advance of it: rays of the caudal too minute and obsolete to be distinguished.
D. 38; A. 0; CO?; P.O.
(Colour of a specimen in spirits). Of a uniform yellowish brown, paler beneath: no indication of the transverse bands which appear in the last species.
This species, which has evidently been confounded with the next by many authors*, I have, since the publication of my Catalogue, ascertained to be the true S. Ophidion of Bloch, and probably of Gmelin, but whether of Linnaeus also is doubtful, as his very concise description applies nearly equally well to both. It is closely allied to the S. cequoreus, from which it scarcely diners, excepting in its slenderer and rounder form, and much forwarder position of the dorsal and vent. It is indeed with this last species, that it has probably been confounded by Low, under the name of Longer Pipe-Fish, part of whose description, borrowed from Sibbald and Pennant, does not belong to it: the proportions, however, which Low assigns to his own specimens, convince me that this is the species which had occurred to himself, and, according to his own account, in great plenty. The only specimens which I have seen, amounting, however, to several, are in the collection of W. Yarrell, Esq. I am ignorant as to the locality whence they were obtained.
* Montagu was the first to point out the great discrepancies which appear in the different figures and descriptions given by different authors of S. Ophidion, and it is entirely owing to his observations on this subject, that I was led to detect the existence of another species. See Wern. Man. vol. i. p. 89.
I consider this as a very doubtful species. The figure, in which there is neither anal nor pectoral fins, approaches so closely the S. tequoreus, that I feel confident it was taken either from that species, or the 5. Ophidian last described. In the description, however, mention is made both of anal and pectorals, but of no caudal, a combination of characters which is not only at variance with every British species I am acquainted with, but which will not accord with any of those given by Linnaeus, (not even with the S. barbarus, in which, according to that author, there is no anal,) and which, moreover, will not fall under any of the sections into which Cuvier has divided the genus. There is strong ground for believing that, by some unaccountable accident, Pennant has mixed up under one name the descriptions of two totally distinct species.
*** Anal, pectoral, and caudal fins, all wanting.