Southern Ribbonfish, Trachipterus arawatae (Clarke 1881)

Other Names: Dealfish, Deal-fish, Port Jackson Ribbon-fish, Ribbonfish, Southern Ribbon-fish, Southern Silver Ribbon-fish

A Southern Ribbonfish, Trachipterus arawatae, about 30 m offshore from Whites Beach, Broken Head, New South Wales. Source: Stewart Barry / Atlas of Living Australia. License: CC by Attribution


Large oceanic fishes with brilliant silvery skin and bright red fins. Southern Ribbonfish have a long, compressed body that tapers to a very narrow tail base, large eyes, a large very protrusible mouth, and a long-based dorsal fin extending from the top of head with a high crest at the front in young. Juveniles have a large red caudal fin, and long, fan-like pelvic fins that reduce with growth to become small tubercles in adults. They also have several large black blotches or spots on the side: usually 3-4 above the lateral line, and 1-2 below.

Southern Ribbonfish occasionally enter coastal bays.

Although some authors referred to this species as Trachipterus jacksonensis, Clark's description was published before that of T. jacksonenesis (April 1881 vs May 1881).

Video of a Southern Ribbonfish in Port Phillip, Victoria, October 2017.

Video of a juvenile species of Trachipterus (not a Southern Ribbonfish).

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Trachipterus arawatae in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Dec 2019,

Southern Ribbonfish, Trachipterus arawatae (Clarke 1881)

More Info


Known in Australian waters from north Queensland to west of Bunbury, southwestern Western Australia, including around Tasmania; depth range 0-1000 m. The specimen off Bunbury was taken on hook and line. Elsewhere the species most likely circumglobal in the Southern Hemisphere,  where it is widespread in deeper oceanic waters to depths of 1000 m.


Dorsal fin 145-185; Caudal fin 8 + 5; Pectoral fin 9-11; Pelvic fin 5; Gill rakers (lower limb) 10; Vertebrae 81-83.

Body long, very compressed, deep anteriorly, tapering to a very narrow tail base; eyes large, mouth very protrusible; dorsal fin long-based, extending from top of head to tail, with a high crest at the front in young, crest reducing in size and finally lost with growth; pelvic fins long and fan-like in juveniles, reduced to small tubercles in adults; anal fin absent.


To 2.2 metres.


Body silver, partly transparent; juveniles with several large black blotches on either side, usually 3-4 above lateral line, 1-2 below; fins bright red.


Feeds mostly on pelagic fishes, crustaceans and squids.


These fishes are most often taken in deepwater trawls, but are occasionally sighted at the ocean surface or found stranded ashore after storms.


This species was considered a synonym of Trachipterus trachipterus (Gmelin 1789) by Heemstra & Kannemeyer (1984). Some authors refers to this species as Trachipterus jacksonensis, which was described by Ramsay based on a specimen from Manly, Sydney, New South Wales. Ramsay's description was published in May 1881, after the description of Trachipterus arawatae was published.

Species Citation

Trachypterus arawatae Clarke, 1881, Trans. Proc. N. Z. Inst. 13(21): 197, Fig. Type locality: Hominy Cove, 3-4 miles south from Jackson's Bay, New Zealand (published April 1881).


Bray, D.J. 2017


Australian Faunal Directory (as Trachipterus jacksonensis)

Southern Ribbonfish, Trachipterus arawatae (Clarke 1881)


Bray, D.J. 2008. Family Trachipteridae, pp. 299, in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Clarke, F.E.  1881. Description of a new species of Trachypterus. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 13(21): 195-199 [as Trachypterus arawatae] ref at BHL

Fitch, J.E. 1964. The ribbon fishes (family Trachipteridae) of the eastern Pacific Ocean, with a description of a new species. California Fisheries and Game 50(4): 228-240 figs 1-5. 

Glover, C.J.M. 1994. Families Lampridae, Veliferidae, Lophotidae, Trachipteridae, Regalecidae, Fistulariidae. pp. 427-435 figs 382-387 In: Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H (eds) The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs 

Grant, E.M. 1975. Guide to Fishes. Brisbane : Queensland Government, Co-ordinator General’s Department 640 pp. (p. 117, as Trachipterus jacksonensis)

Heemstra, P.C. & Kannemeyer, S.X. 1986. Trachipteridae. p. 399-402. In Smith, M.M. & P.C. Heemstra (eds) Smiths' sea fishes. Springer-Verlag, Berlin. [as Trachipterus jacksoniensis]
Hutchins, J.B.2001. Checklist of the fishes of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement No. 63: 9-50 (as Trachipterus jacksonensis)
Johnson, J.W. 1999. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 43(2): 709-762 (as Trachipterus jacksonensis)

May, J.L. & Maxwell, J.G.H. 1986. Field Guide to Trawl Fish from Temperate Waters of Australia. Hobart : CSIRO Division of Marine Research 492 pp.

McCoy, F. 1889. Prodromus of the zoology of Victoria; figures and descriptions of the living species of all classes of the Victorian indigenous animals. Government Printer, Melbourne. Decade 13: Pl. 122, 83-84 (as Trachipterus taenia). See ref. at BHL

Ramsay, E.P. 1881. On a new species of Regalecus from Port Jackson. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 5(4): 631-633 fig. 20  (as Regalecus jacksonensis) Ref at BHL

Roberts, T.R. 2012. Systematics, biology, and distribution of the species of the oceanic oarfish genus Regalecus (Teleostei, Lampridiformes, Regalecidae). Mémoires du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris (N. S.) (Série A) Zoologie : 202: 1-268.

Scott, E.O.G. 1983. Observations on some Tasmanian fishes. Part 29. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 117: 167-202 figs 1-6 pls 1-3

Whitley, G.P. 1964. A survey of Australian Ichthyology. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 89(1): 11-127 (as Trachipterus jacksonensis)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37271001

Depth:0-1000 m

Habitat:Mesopelagic, epipelagic, oceanic

Max Size:220 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map