Smooth Anglerfish, Histiophryne bougainvilli (Valenciennes 1837)

Other Names: Bougainvilles Anglerfish, Bougainville's Anglerfish, Bougainville's Frogfish, Smooth Angler

A Smooth Anglerfish, Histiophryne bougainvilli, protecting a batch of eggs in a pocket created between his body and tail - Nelson Bay, New South Wales. Source: Dave Harasti / License: All rights reserved


Smooth Anglerfish have a very small first dorsal-fin spine (illicium) that folds back into a shallow groove, and lack a distinct lure (esca). The second and third dorsal-fin spines are immovable, embedded in thick skin, and appear to be low protuberances on top of the head. They also lack a caudal peduncle, having the last dorsal and anal-fin rays connected to the outermost caudal-fin rays.

Unlike most anglerfishes, smooth anglerfishes are egg-brooders. They curve their body and tail around creating a brood-pocket for the developing eggs between the body and the caudal, dorsal and pectoral fins.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Histiophryne bougainvilli in Fishes of Australia, accessed 18 Oct 2018,

Smooth Anglerfish, Histiophryne bougainvilli (Valenciennes 1837)

More Info


Known from temperate waters of the Western Pacific. In Australian waters, the Smooth Anglerfish has been recorded from the Whitsunday Islands, Queensland, to Jervis Bay, New South Wales, and from Kangaroo Island and the South Australian Gulfs. They are not known from Victorian or Tasmanian waters.

These benthic fishes inhabit inshore reefs to 6 m, often living amongst the sponges they resemble.


Meristic features: Dorsal-fin spines/rays III, 13-16; Anal-fin rays 6-9; Pectoral-fin rays 8-9; Caudal-fin rays 9.

Body short, deep, slightly compressed, caudal peduncle absent. Head large, rounded, eyes small. Mouth large, upturned, jaw teeth short, recurved, numerous in both jaws. Gill opening a small pore behind and below the pectoral-fin base.

The rudimentary illicium and esca can be folded back into a shallow illicial groove on the snout. The illicium is short and lacks dermal spinules, and the esca is a simple oval-shaped or lanceolate appendage. The 2nd and 3rd dorsal spines are immovable and almost hidden by skin, only emerging as low protuberances on the top of the head and neck.

The last soft dorsal and anal-fin rays reach beyond the caudal-fin base and are connected to the outermost caudal-fin rays. The soft dorsal fin is long-based, and the anal fin has a short base. The caudal fin is rounded; the pectoral fins are prominent and arm-like; the pelvic fins are located under the head.

The body is relatively smooth, and may or may not have simple and widely-spaced dermal spinules.


This small species grows to about 9 cm.


Smooth Anglerfish are well camouflaged to match their surroundings, and range in colour from light beige, pale yellow, yellow-brown, pinkish-brown to a dark chocolate brown. The body is often darker above than below, and usually has one to two lighter patches above the pectoral-fin lobe. Some individuals also have many small somewhat darker-colored close-set ocelli on the body.


Anglerfishes are ambush predators, relying on camouflage and their fishing lure to attract unsuspecting prey which is rapidly engulfed. Although the Smooth Anglerfish has no lure, it uses its superb sponge-like camouflage to 'hide' from prey.


The sexes are separate and fertilisation is external. Unlike most anglerfishes, female smooth anglerfish lay a cluster of large demersal eggs that are attached together and to the parent body by filaments. The eggs are brooded in a pocket created behind the pectoral fin by the curved body and tail and beneath the folded dorsal fin. One egg cluster that was examined contained about 105 eggs that measured 2.9 to 3.9 mm in diameter. Smooth Anglerfish eggs hatch into relatively large, advanced young.


Of no interest to fisheries.


IUCN Red List: Not Evaluated

EPBC Act 1999: Not listed


Two new species in the genus Histiophryne have recently been described.

A remarkable and unusual new species, Histiophryne psychedelica Pietsch, Arnold & Hall 2009, was described from Ambon and Bali islands, Indonesia. Despite lacking a fishing lure and having a striking colour pattern and forward-facing eyes, molecular studies confirmed that this new species is most closely related to Histiophryne cryptacantha.

The other species, Histiophryne maggiewalker, was described from southern Queensland.

Similar Species

Histiophryne bougainvilli has a slightly longer illicium (5.4-8.9% SL) than that of Histiophryne cryptacanthawhich is nearly absent (only reaching to 4% SL). The Smooth Anglerfish is most similar to Histiophryne maggiewalker, which was recently described from southern Queensland. Unlike other Histiophryne species, H. maggiewalker has a relatively long illicium and an expanded and somewhat rectangular esca.

Species Citation

Chironectes bougainvilli Valenciennes 1837 Histoire Naturelle des Poissons 12: 431, 'Mer des Indes'.


Dianne J. Bray

Smooth Anglerfish, Histiophryne bougainvilli (Valenciennes 1837)


Allen, G.R., N.J. Cross, D.J. Bray & D.F. Hoese. 2006. Antennariidae, pp. 637-646. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. Fishes. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing, Part 1

Arnold, R. & T.W. Pietsch. 2011. A new species of frogfish of the genus Histiophryne (Teleostei: Lophiiformes: Antennariidae) from Queensland, Australia. Zootaxa 2925: 63–68.

Coleman, N. 1980. Australian Sea Fishes South of 30ºS. Doubleday Australia P/L, Lane Cove, NSW, 309 p.

Pietsch, T.W. 1984. The genera of frogfishes (family Antennariidae). Copeia 1984(1): 27-44.

Pietsch T.W. 1994. Family Antennariidae, pp. 285–297. In Gomon, M.F., C.J.M. Glover & R.H. Kuiter (eds.) The fishes of Australia's south coast. State Print, Adelaide. 992 p.

Pietsch, T.W. 1999. Antennariidae: Frogfishes (also seamice, anglerfishes), p. 2013-2015, In Carpenter, K.E. & V.H. Niem. Species identification guide for fisheries purposes. The living marine resources of the western central Pacific. Batoid fishes, chimeras and bony fishes. Part 1 (Elopidae to Linophrynidae). FAO, Rome.

Pietsch, T.W. 2008. Anternnariidae. In Gomon, M.F., D.J. Bray & R.H. Kuiter. The Fishes of Australia’s Southern Coast. New Holland Publishers, Chatswood, Australia.

Pietsch, T.W., R.J. Arnold & D.J. Hall. 2009. A bizarre new species of frogfish of the genus Histiophryne (Lophiiformes: Antennariidae) from Ambon and Bali, Indonesia. Copeia 2009(1): 37-45.

Pietsch, T.W. & D.B. Grobecker. 1987. Frogfishes of the World: Systematics, Zoogeography, and Behavioral Ecology. Stanford University Press, Stanford, xxii + 420 pp.

Pietsch, T.W. & C.P. Kenaley. 2005. Antennariidae. Frogfishes. Version 01 November 2005 (under construction). in The Tree of Life Web Project,

Thresher, R.E. 1984. Reproduction in reef fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Inc. Ltd., Neptune City, New Jersey. 399 p.

Waite, E.R. 1921. Illustrated catalogue of the fishes of South Australia. G.Hassell & Son, Adelaide, Australia: Fig. 300. Digital image of figure is available online at:

Valenciennes, A. 1837. In Cuvier, G.L. & A. Valenciennes, A. Histoire Naturelle des Poissons. Paris: Levrault Vol. 12 507 pp. pls 344-368.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37210024

Biology:Tiny fishing lure

Depth:0-6 m

Habitat:Reefs, sponge gardens

Max Size:9 cm TL, 7 cm SL


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