Common name: Cusk-eels, Lings


The largest and most and diverse ophidiiform group. Species are mostly bottom-dwellers, including the deepest known living fish species, Abyssobrotula galathea, captured at 8370 m in the Puerto Rico Trench.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Cusk-eels, OPHIDIIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 17 Jun 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

Very large family with more than 250 described species; more than 40 described species in 20 or more genera have been collected from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Worldwide on continental shelf and slopes, with the greatest diversity and dominance in deep subtropical and tropical regions; most benthic or benthopelagic, in a variety of habitats from holes and crevices on shallow reefs to abyssal depths in deep oceanic trenches to 8370 m, a few species pelagic or mesopelagic.

Family Description

Body moderately elongate, tapering; anterior nostril midway between upper lip and posterior nostril (immediately above upper lip in bythitids), teeth small, blunt, very close together; well-developed opercular spine usually present; supramaxilla present; rarely fewer than 7 long gill rakers on anterior gill arch. Dorsal fin long-based, origin anterior to anal-fin origin, dorsal fin-rays usually longer than opposing anal fin rays; dorsal, caudal and anal fins usually continuous; pelvic fins, is present, jugular, usually reduced to 1 or 2 short rays. Body scales smooth. Anus well-behind pectoral fins in most species.

Family Size

Maximum length to 2 metres, but most species are small to medium-sized.

Family Feeding

Carnivores - with species ranging from large predators feeding on fishes, to small species feeding mostly on polychaete worms and small crustaceans.

Family Reproduction

Little is known of the biology of  most species. Ophidiids are oviparous with external fertilization. The eggs are pelagic, variable in size; some are reportly embedded in a buoyant gelatinous mass, others are free floating. Larvae are pelagic with no special vexillifer larval stage.

Family Commercial

Two commercially important genera, Brotula in tropical areas, and Genypterus in temperate waters of southern hemisphere; many other species taken as bycatch and occasionally marketed. Genypterus blacodes, a highly important commercial species throughout its range, is caught in demersal trawls, on auto-longlines, and as bycatch and in the rock lobster and giant crab fisheries.


Bray, D.J. 2022


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