Common name: Ribbonfishes, Dealfishes


A group of striking, deepwater oceanic fishes with long ribbon-like bodies, large eyes, greatly protrusible mouths, no ribs, and no pelvic fins in adults. Ribbonfishes undergo remarkable changes between larval stages and adulthood.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Ribbonfishes, TRACHIPTERIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Jul 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

Small family with 3 genera and at least 10 species; all genera and 3 species occur in Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Cosmopolitan in all oceans; meso- to bathypelagic depths.

Family Description

Body elongate, compressed, tapering from large head to very narrow caudal peduncle, eye large; mouth highly protrusible, teeth present. Dorsal fin very long, originating well behind tip of snout, highest anteriorly,extending nearly full length of body; anal fin generally absent; pelvic fins elongate in juveniles, reduced or absent in adults; caudal fin long, upper lobe only prsent in most species and oriented perpendicular to body, lower lobe absent. Scales cycloid or modified ctenoid, deciduous; skin of adults covered with small, bony tubercles, juveniles with posteriorly directed spinules along lateral line, scattered over caudal peduncle and on caudal rays. Swim bladder rudimentary, if present.

Family Size

Reach about 2.2 m.

Family Feeding

Carnivores, feeding on other fishes, squids and crustaceans.

Family Reproduction

Oviparous, with planktonic eggs and larvae. All species undergo considerable allometric growth and remarkable ontogenetic changes between larval and adult stages. Eggs 1.8-3.2. mm, spherical, pelagic and often pale orange or reddish in colour. Larvae at all growth stages are highly pigmented. At hatching, larvae have well-developed, protrusible jaws, pigmented eyes and functional differentiated guts. An elaborate, long anterior dorsal filament develops behind the head, ornamented at intervals with pigmented swellings. Pelvic fin elements well-developed and ornamented.

Family Commercial

Very occasionally taken as bycatch in commercial fisheries.

Family Remarks

Ribbonfishes swim in an eel-like fashion by undulating the dorsal fin.

Family Biology

Martin, J.M. & Hilton, E.A. 2021. A taxonomic review of the family Trachipteridae (Acanthomorpha: Lampridiformes), with an emphasis on taxa distributed in the western Pacific Ocean. Zootaxa 5039(3): 301–351


Bray, D.J. 2021


Charter, S.R. & H.G. Moser. 1996. Lampridiformes, Lophotidae, Radiicephalidae, Trachipteridae. In The early stages of fishes in the California current region. California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations Atlas No. 33, pp. 659-677.

Heemstra, P.C. & S.X. Kannemeyer. 1984. The families Trachipteridae and Radiicephalidae (Pisces, Lampriformes) and a new species of Zu from South Africa. Ann. S. Afr. Mus. 94: 13-39.

Moser, H.G. (ed.) 1996. The Early Stages of Fishes in the California Current Region. CalCOFI Atlas No. 33 Ed. Allen Press Inc, Lawrence, Kansas. 1505 pp.

Okiyama, M (ed.) 1988. An Atlas of the Early Stage Fishes in Japan. Tokai University Press, Tokyo. 1154 pp. [in Japanese]

Olney, J.E. 1984. Lampridiformes: development and relationships. Pp. 368-379, 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.

Olney, J.E. 1999. Trachipteridae: Ribbonfishes (dealfishes), 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.

Olney, J.E., G.D. Johnson & C.C. Baldwin. 1993. Phylogeny of lampridiform fishes. Bull. Mar. Sci. 52:137-169.

Olney, J.E. & A. Naplin. 1980. Eggs of the Scalloped Ribbonfish, Zu cristatus, (Pisces: Trachipteridae) in the Western North Atlantic. Copeia 1980(1):  165-166.