Common name: Southern smelts


Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Southern smelts, RETROPINNIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 13 Jul 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

The family includes two groups previously separated as families: the smelts (Retropinnidae) and southern graylings  Prototroctidae). McDowall (1979) reviewed the New Zealand smelts and recognised four species (all figured) in two genera from New Zealand, the Chatham Islands and southeastern Australia (two species). The southern graylings were reviewed by McDowall (1976), who recognised two species in a single genus from Australia and New Zealand (the New Zealand species has not been seen since the 1920s and is presumed to be extinct).

Family Distribution

Retropinnids are confined to southern Australia and New Zealand. They are primarily brackish and freshwater inhabitants, found in coastal seas, lowland rivers, and inland rivers and lakes.

Family Size

Maximum length of species vary from 150 to 300 mm.

Family Feeding

The species feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans and at least in some cases plants. 


Dianne J. Bray


McDowall, R.M. 1976. Fishes of the family Prototroctidae (Salmoniformes). Aust. J. Mar. Freshwat. Res. 27(4): 641–659 figs 1–6

McDowall, R.M. 1979. Fishes of the family Retropinnidae (Pisces : Salmoniformes): A taxonomic revision and synopsis. J. R. Soc. N.Z. 9(1): 85–121 figs 1–11