Oxeye Herring, Megalops cyprinoides (Broussonet 1782)

Other Names: Bony Mullet, Indo-Pacific Tarpon, Ox-eye Herring, Tarpon

Oxeye Herring, Megalops cyprinoides. Source: Australian National Fish Collection, CSIRO. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial


A large silvery fish with a laterally compressed oblong-shaped body with a deeply forked tail, a protruding lower jaw, an elongate last dorsal-fin ray, and large scales. The large eye is covered with adipose tissue and there is a conspicuous axillary scale at the base of each pectoral and pelvic fin.

Oxeye Herring (aka Tarpon) in the Finniss River, Northern Territory.

Video - Bull Shark predation on Tarpon

Fly fishing for Oxeye Herring (Tarpon) in North Queensland.

Cite this page as:
Martin F. Gomon & Dianne J. Bray, Megalops cyprinoides in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 Jan 2019, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/1991

Oxeye Herring, Megalops cyprinoides (Broussonet 1782)

More Info


Widespread in troical waters of the Red Sea nd Indo-West Pacific. Known in Australian waters from about Port Hedland, Western Australia (20°19’S) to the Tuross River, New South Wales (36°12’S). As adults, Oxeye Herring inhabit marine and estuarine waters, however juveniles and small adults may be found in well-upstream in the freshwater reaches of tropical rivers or coastal lakes, in clear or turbid water.


Meristic features: Dorsal fin 16-21; Pectoral fin 15-16; Anal fin 22-31; Plvic fin 10-11; Lateral line scales 36-42; Gill rakers 15-17 + 30-35; Branchiostegal rays 26-27.

Body moderately deep, compressed, deepest in middle before tapering at both ends; eye large, covered with adipose tissue. Mouth large, jaws extending to posterior margin of eye, lower jaw projecting beyond snout; a gular plate present between arms of lower jaw. Teeth small, granular;  gill rakers long and slender; modified swim bladder lies against the skull. Scales large. Fins lack spines; dorsal fin situated in middle of body, directly over ventral fins, last ray elongate and filamentous; pectoral fins low on side of body near ventral fin margin; pelvic fins abdominal; pectoral and pelvic fin bases with a conspicuous axillary scale; anal fin insertion behind dorsal fin; caudal fin deeply forked.


To around 150cm, commonly to 50cm.


Ranges from bluish-green to olive dorsally, silvery on sides and belly; fins are greenish to yellowish.


Adults are carnivores, and feed on a variety of crustaceans, insects and fishes, often feeding beneath floating aquatic vegetation. Juveniles feed on plankton.


Oviparous, pelagic spawning peaks during the summer wet season in near-shore marine and estuarine areas. Produce numerous small, non-buoyant, non-adhesive eggs. The leptocephalus larvae are flat, band-like, transparent and similar to those of true eels, although unlike eels, Oxeye Herring leptocephali have forked tails. Larvae drift into shallow coastal waters and estuaries where they develop to maturity and it is during this period when young fish may venture into coastal streams. Larvae develop teeth early in life at around 11mm TL.


An excellent sports fish renowned for its fighting ability, especially when taken on light lines. However, the species is considered to be poor eating in Australia, especially because it has very bony flesh. Oxeye Herring are caught in subsistence fisheries throughout their range.



The Oxeye Herring has a modified swim bladder allowing it to gulp air from the surface to supplement its oxygen supply in low oxygen environments. They can also tolerate a wide pH range (5.2-9.1).

Species Citation

Clupea cyprinoids Broussonet 1782, Ichthyologia Sistens Piscium Descriptions et Icones. : 39, Pl. 9. Type locality: Tanna Island, Vanuatu


Martin F. Gomon & Dianne J. Bray

Oxeye Herring, Megalops cyprinoides (Broussonet 1782)


Allen, G.R. 1982. Inland Fishes of Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 86 pp. 6 figs 20 pls.

Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. 2002. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp.

Broussonet P.M.A. 1782. Ichthyologia Sistens Piscium Descriptions et Icones. London : Elmsly 42 pp.

Coates, D. 1987. Observations on the biology of tarpon, Megalops cyprinoides (Broussonet) (Pisces: Megalopidae), in the Sepik River, northern Papua New Guinea. Aust. J. Mar. Freshwat. Res. 38(4):529-535.

Davis, T.L.O. 1988. Temporal changes in the fish fauna entering a tidal swamp in tropical Australia. Environmental Biology of Fishes 21: 161-172.

Gloerfelt-Tarp, T. & P.J. Kailola, 1984 Trawled fishes of southern Indonesia and northwestern Australia. Australian Development Assistance Bureau, Australia, Directorate General of Fishes, Indonesia, and German Agency for Technical Cooperation, Federal Republic of Germany. 407 p.

Larson, H.K. & Martin, K.C. 1990. Freshwater Fishes of the Northern Territory. Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences Handbook Series Number 1. Darwin : Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences 102 pp. 73 figs.

Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management. Sydney : J.R. Merrick 409 pp. figs 280 col. figs

Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the world. 4th ed. John Wiley and Sons, New York, 601 pp.

Paxton, J.R., J.E. Gates, D.J. Bray & D.F. Hoese 2006. Megalopidae. pp. 223-224 in Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Australia : ABRS & CSIRO Publishing Vol. 1-3 2178 pp.

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Pusey, B.J., M.J. Kennard & J. Bird. 2000. Fishes of the dune fields of Cape Flattery, northern Queensland and other dune systems in north-eastern Australia. Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 11( 1): 65-74.

Smith, D.G. 1999. Families Elopidae, Megalopidae. pp. 1619-1622. In Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 3 pp. 1397-2068..

Smith, M.M., 1986 Megalopidae. p. 155-156. In M.M. Smith & P.C. Heemstra (eds.) Smiths' sea fishes. MacMillan, South Africa.

Tran, H., R.S. Mehta & P.C. Wainwright. 2010. The effects of ram speed on juvenile tarpon feeding kinematics. Zoology 113: 75-84. 

Wade, R.A. 1962. The biology of the tarpon, Megalops atlanticus, and the ox-eye, Megalops cyprinoides, with emphasis on larval development. Bulletin of Marine Science of the Gulf and Caribbean 12: 545-622.

Walden, D. & B. Pidgeon. 1998. Freshwater fishes of Kakadu National Park. Supervising Scientist, Canberra. 44 p.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37054001

Depth:0-42 m

Fishing:Popular sports fish

Habitat:Freshwater to coastal marine

Max Size:152 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map