Common name: Fanfin Anglerfishes, Fanfin Anglers


A small group of very rare deepsea anglerfishes (Suborder Ceratioidei) with males being parasitic on females. The larger females are distinguished by having extremely elongate dorsal- and anal-fin rays, and an illicium with no bioluminescent escal bulb.

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Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Fanfin Anglers, CAULOPHRYNIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 26 Sep 2023,

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Family Taxonomy

Family with 2 genera and 5 species; a single species has been recorded in Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Found nearly worldwide in bathypelagic and sometimes mesopelagic waters at 100-1500 m.

Family Description

Females with short, rounded bodies; mouth large, lower jaw reaching beyond pectoral-fin base; jaw teeth slender, recurved, depressible. Dorsal and anal fins with extremely elongated filamentous rays, caudal-fin rays 8, pelvic fins absent; sensory neuromasts of lateral line system at tips of long filamentous finrays. Esca simple or with filaments and appendages, escal bulb absent. Skin naked, dermal spines absent. Males much smaller than females, moderately elongate, eyes large, nostrils and olfactory organs large; teeth absent from jaws, denticular bones with tooth-like structures to enable attachment to females. Dorsal and anal fins not prolonged, pectoral fins large, pelvic fins only present in juveniles.

Family Size

Females to 200 mm; males to 16 mm TL.

Family Feeding

Preys on other fishes.

Family Reproduction

Oviparous, with external fertilization. Larvae are short, rounded, with inflated skin and well-developed pectoral and pelvic fins.  A rudimentary illicium is present in both sexes. Larval metamorphosis begins at 8-10 mm SL.

Family Commercial

no commercial importance.

Family Conservation



Dianne J. Bray


Bertelsen, E. 1951. The ceratioid fishes. Ontogeny, taxonomy, distribution and biology. Dana Rept. 39: 276 pp.

Bertelsen, E. 1984. Ceratioidei: Development and relationships. pp. 325-334, In Moser, H.G., W.J. Richards, D.M. Cohen, M.P. Fahay, A.W. Kendall, Jr. & S.L. Richardson (eds). Ontogeny and Systematics of Fishes. Spec. Publ. No. 1. Amer. Soc. Ichthy. Herpet., ix + 760 pp.

Pietsch, T.W. 1979. Ceratioid anglerfishes of the family Caulophrynidae, with the description of a new genus and species from the Banda Sea. Contrib. Sci., Nat. Hist. Mus. Los Angeles Co. 310: 1-25.

Pietsch, T.W. 1999. Caulophrynidae: Fanfin anglerfishes (deepsea anglerfishes), p. 2026, 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. 2005. Dimorphism, parasitism, and sex revisited: modes of reproduction among deep-sea ceratioid anglerfishes (Teleostei: Lophiiformes). Ichthyol. Res. 52: 207-236.

Pietsch, T.W. 2009. Oceanic Anglerfishes: Extraordinary Diversity in the Deep Sea. University of California Press, 576 pp.

Pietsch, T.W. & Kenaley, C.P. 2005. Caulophrynidae. Fanfin seadevils. Version 03 November 2005 (under construction). in The Tree of Life Web Project,