Sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus (Shaw & Nodder 1792)


Other Names: Bayonet Fish, Bayonet-fish, Indo-Pacific Sailfish, Pacific Sailfish

A Sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus, hunting sardines off the coast of Mexico. Source: Peter G. Allinson, M.D. / Marine Photobank. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial

Summary:

A very fast moving predator, found in oceanic waters, usually well offshore - thought to be the fastest swimming fish in the ocean. Feed on baitfish and squid. They herd baitfish into a ball and slash with their bill - then consume injured baitfish.

Identifying features:
Dorsal fin long-based and sail-like; bill very long and thin; sides with vertical bands made up of fine blue spots.

Watch 'Superfish' by the BBC Wildlife Unit.

Fabulous highspeed footage showing Sailfish using their bill to 'slash' schooling baitfish - sardines.

Sailfish hunting a school of baitfish in the Maldives.


Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray & Schultz, S., Istiophorus platypterus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Nov 2018, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/713

Sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus (Shaw & Nodder 1792)

More Info


Distribution

Common and widespread in the tropical and sub-tropical Atlantic and Indo-Pacific oceans, ranging into temperate waters. Sailfish have been recorded from all Australian states including Tasmania. 

Epipelagic usually in oceanic waters above the thermocline, and also found near continental coasts, islands and reefs.

Features

Dorsal fin 42-49, 6-7; Anal fin 12-17, 6-7; Pectoral fin 18-20.

Body elongate, compressed; bill very long, narrow, rounded in cross-section; small file-like teeth in jaws; gill rakers absent. Caudal peduncle with a double keel.

First dorsal fin very tall, middle rays longest; origin of second dorsal behind origin of second anal fin. Pelvic fin very long, almost reaching anus, rays fused; caudal fin very forked.

Scales embedded in skin, with single or double point; scale number reduces with increasing size of fish.

Size

To 350 cm and 100 kg.

Colour

Dark blue above, fading to white below; sides with scattered brown patches and bands comprised of blue spots on sides. First dorsal fin dark blue with small black spots. Anal fin bases silvery-white, pectoral and caudal fins dark brown or blue.

Feeding

Carnivore - feeds mostly on fishes, crustaceans and cephalopods. Adults are highly opportunistic, feeding on a large range of prey species including sardines, anchovies and mackerels. Schools of sailfish hunt together, using the large dorsal fin to herd baitfishes into a ball before slashing their bill through the school to injure prey.

Biology

Spawning peaks occur in summer, but can occur throughout the year. Males and females pair off, or several males chase a single female. Spawned eggs are around 1.3 mm in diameter, with a single oil globule. Larvae occur near coral reefs in Queensland waters.

Fisheries

Although targeted in some areas, the species is mostly taken as bycatch by tuna longliners, but not as highly valued as marlin, and usually released. Considered a hard-fighting sport fish by recreational anglers.

Conservation

IUCN Red List : Least Concern

Remarks

One of the fastest swimming fish, capable of speeds up to 110 km/hr.

Species Citation

Xiphias platypterus Shaw 1792, The Naturalist's Miscellany: Pl. 88. Type locality: Indian Ocean.

Author

Dianne J. Bray & Schultz, S.

Sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus (Shaw & Nodder 1792)

References


Beardsley, G.L., N.R. Merrett & W.J. Richards. 1975. Synopsis of the biology of the sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus (Shaw and Nodder, 1791). NOAA Tech. Rep. NMFS SSRF 675(3): 95-120.

Chiang, W.C., Sun, C.L., Wang, S.P., Yeh, S.Z., Chen, Y., Su, W.C., Liu, D.C., Chen, W.Y. 2009. Analysis of sex-specific spawning biomass per recruit of the sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) in the waters off eastern Taiwan. Fish. Bull. 107(3): 265-277.

Chiang W-C, Sun C-L, Yeh S-Z, Su W-C, Liu D-C, Chen W-Y. 2006. Sex ratios, size at sexual maturity, and spawning season seasonality of sailfish Istiophorus platypterus from eastern Taiwan. Bulletin of Marine Science 3: 985-994.

Collette, B.B. 2010. Reproduction and Development in Epipelagic Fishes. In: Cole, K.S. (ed.), Reproduction and Sexuality in Marine Fishes: Patterns and Processes, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Collette, B., Acero, A., Amorim, A.F., Boustany, A., Canales Ramirez, C., Cardenas, G., Carpenter, K.E., de Oliveira Leite Jr., N., Di Natale, A., Die, D., Fox, W., Fredou, F.L., Graves, J., Guzman-Mora, A., Viera Hazin, F.H., Hinton, M., Juan Jorda, M., Minte Vera, C., Miyabe, N., Montano Cruz, R., Nelson, R., Oxenford, H., Restrepo, V., Salas, E., Schaefer, K., Schratwieser, J., Serra, R., Sun, C., Teixeira Lessa, R.P., Pires Ferreira Travassos, P.E., Uozumi, Y. & Yanez, E. 2011. Istiophorus platypterus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T170338A6754507. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2011-2.RLTS.T170338A6754507.en. Downloaded on 04 November 2016.

Collette, B.B., Carpenter, K.E., Polidoro, B.A., Juan-Jorda, M.J., Boustany, A., Die, D.J., Elfes, C., Fox, W., Graves, J., Harrison, L., McManus, R., Minte-Vera, C., Nelson, R., Restrepo, V., Schratwieser, J., Sun, C-L, Brick Peres, M., Canales, C., Cardenas, G., Chang, S.-K., Chiang, W-C, de Oliveira Leite, N., Harwell, H., Lessa, R., Fredou, F.L., Oxenford, H.A., Serra, R., Shao, K.-T., Sumalia, R., Wang, S-P, Watson, R., and Yanez, E. 2011. High-Value and Long-Lived: Double jeapardy for threatened tunas, mackerels and billfishes. Science 333(6040): 291 DOI: 10.1126/science.1208730 .

Collette, B.B., McDowell, J.R. & Graves, J.E. 2006. Phylogeny of Recent billfishes (Xiphioidei). Bull. Mar. Sci. 79(3): 455-468.

Domenici, P., A.D.M. Wilson., R.H.J.M. Kurvers, S. Marras, J.E. Herbert-Read, J.F. Steffensen, S. Krause, P.E. Viblanc, P. Couillaud & J. Krause. 2014. How sailfish use their bills to capture schooling prey. Proc. R. Soc. B : 281(1784): 1471-2954. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2014.0444

Graves, J.E. & J.R. McDowell. 1995. Inter-ocean genetic divergence of istiophorid billfishes. Marine Biology 122(2): 193–204.

Herbert-Read JE, Romanczuk P, Krause S, Strömbom D, Couillaud P, Domenici P, Kurvers RHJM, Marras S, Steffensen JF, Wilson ADM, Krause J. Proto-cooperation: group hunting sailfish improve hunting success by alternating attacks on grouping prey. Proceedings Royal Society B 283: 20161671, 9pp. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.1671 PDF Open access

IGFA. 2011. International Game Fish Association World Record Game Fishes. Dania Beach, Florida.

Kitchell JF, Martell SJD, Walters CJ, Jensen OP, Kaplan IC, Watters J, Essington TE, Boggs CH. 2006. Billfishes in an ecosystem context. Bulletin of Marine Science 79(3): 669-682.

McDowell, J.R. 2002. Genetic stock structure of the sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus, based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. Ph.D. dissertation, Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Morrow, J.E., Harbo, S.J. 1969. A revision of the sailfish genus Istiophorus. Copeia 1969: 34-44.

Nakamura, I. 1985. Billfishes of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of marlins, sailfishes, spearfishes and swordfishes known to date. FAO Fish. Synop. 125, vol. 5.

Ortiz, M., Price, E.D., Serafy, J.E., Holts, D.B., Dary, K.B, Pepperell, J.G., Lowry, M.B., Holdsworth, J.C. 2003. Global overview of the major constitutent-based billfish tagging programs and their results since 1954. Mar. Freshwater Res. 54: 489-507.

Prince, E.D., Lee, C.A., Dean, J.M. 1986. Longevity and age validation of a tag-recaptured Atlantic sailfish Istiophorus platypterus, using dorsal spines and otoliths. Fish. Bull. 84: 493-502.

Prince, E.D., Luo, J., Goodyear, C.P., Hoolihan, J.P., Snodgrass, D., Orbeson, E.S., Serafy, J.E., Ortiz, M. and Schirripa, M. 2010. Ocean scale hypoxia-based habitat compression of Atlantic istiophorid billfishes. Fish. Oceanogr. 19: 448-462.

Richards WJ, Luthy SA. 2005. Istiophoridae: billfishes. In: Richards WJ, ed. (ed.), Early stages of Atlantic fishes: an identification guide for the western central North Atlantic., CRC Press.

Serafy, J.E., D.W. Kerstetter & P.H. Rice. 2009. Can circle hook use benefit billfishes? Fish Fish. 10: 132-142.

Quick Facts


CAAB Code:37444005

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-200 m

Fishing:Popular gamefish

Habitat:Oceanic, epipelagic

Max Size:360 cm TL; 100 kg

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map