Common name: Redmouth Whalefishes



Small flabby deep-sea fishes with a very large head, a large mouth reaching to below, but not beyond eye, a long snout, and a small eye. They are meso- and bathypelagic, and feed on small crustaceans and reach 11 cm in length.

The redmouth whalefishes lack external scales, and have distinctive vertical rows of lateral line papillae on the pelvic fins.

The Rondeletiidae comprise a single genus with two species found in the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (Paxton 1999). A single species is known from Australian waters.

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Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray & John R. Paxton, Redmouth Whalefishes, RONDELETIIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 16 Apr 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

A small family with a single genus and two species. A single species is known from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Found worldwide in tropical and temperate ocenic waters. Red whalefishes are mesopelagic and bathypelagic with adults below 500 metres. Larvae described and relationships discussed by Paxton et al. (2001).

Family Description

Flabby fishes with very large head and large mouth reaching to below, but not beyond eye, long snout, and small eye; no external scales in juveniles or adults; lateral line as vertical rows of free neuromasts in form of papillae; small, closely-set teeth on jaws, vomer, and pharyngeals only; no fin spines; median fins opposite and far posterior, ventral fins abdominal, closer to anal-fin origin than pectoral-fin base.

Family Colour

Orange-brown in life.

Family Reproduction

Larvae described in Paxton et al. (2001)


Dianne J. Bray & John R. Paxton


Goode, G.B. & Bean, T.H. 1895. Scientific results of explorations by the U.S. Fish Commission Steamer Albatross. No. 28. On Cetomimidae and Rondeletiidae, two new families of bathybial fishes from the northwestern Atlantic. Proceedings of the United States National Museum 17(1012): 451-454 pl. 17 [1894]

Kotlyar, A.N. 1996. The osteology, intraspecific structure, and distribution of Rondeletia loricata (Rondeletiidae). Journal of Ichthyology 36(2): 207-221 [translation of Voprosy Ikhtiologii 36(2): 154–168]

Paxton, J.R. 1974. Morphology and distribution patterns of the whalefishes of the family Rondeletiidae. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India 15(1): 175-188 figs 1-7

Paxton, J.R. 1999. Families Gibberichthyidae, Rondeletiidae, Barbourisiidae, Cetomimidae, Mirapinnidae, Megalomycteridae, Anoplogastridae, Diretmidae. pp. 2203-2211 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 4 2069-2790 pp.

Paxton, J.R. 2008. Family Rondeletiidae. pp. 413 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Paxton, J.R. & Bray, D.J. 1986. Order Cetomimiformes. pp. 433-434 in Smith, M.M. & Heemstra, P.C. (eds). Smiths' Sea Fishes. Johannesburg : Macmillan South Africa 1047 pp.

Paxton, J.R. & Gates, J.E. 2006. Rondeletiidae. pp. 750-751 in Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (eds). Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35 Australia : ABRS & CSIRO Publishing Parts 1-3 2178 pp.

Paxton, J.R., Hoese, D.F., Allen, G.R. & Hanley, J.E. (eds) 1989. Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Pisces: Petromyzontidae to Carangidae. Canberra : Australian Government Publishing Service Vol. 7 665 pp.

Paxton, J.R., G.D. Johnson & T. Trnski. 2001. Larvae and juveniles of the deepsea ‘whalefishes’ Barbourisia and Rondeletia (Stephanoberyciformes: Barbourisiidae, Rondeletiidae) with comments on family relationships. Records of the Australian Museum 53(3): 407-425.