Common name: Oxeye Herrings, Tarpons


Oxeye Herrings and Tarpons are large-scaled silvery fishes with a single dorsal fin on the middle of the back, a forked tail and large mouth and large eye. Like their relatives, the eels, they have a transparent leptocephalus larval stage.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Tarpons, MEGALOPIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

The very small family of primitive bony fishes comprising a single genus Megalops, with two species, one of which occurs in Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Oxeye and giant herrings occur in tropical regions of the three major oceans. Although they are primarily marine fishes, they frequently enter estuaries and freshwaters.

Family Size

Maximum length for the family is 2.5 m, although in Australia the species rarely exceeds 1 m. Max wi=eight 18 kg.

Family Colour

Silvery, darker olive-green dorsally.

Family Feeding

Carnivores, feeding on smaller fishes and crustaceans.

Family Reproduction

The sexes are separate, fertilisation is external. The pelagic eggs are spawned at sea and the transparent leptocephalus larvae have slender leaf-like bodies and forked tails. After metamorphosis, the juveniles spend time in estuarine nursery areas and commonly enter freshwater.

Family Commercial

Although tarpons are popular and very active sportfishes, the flesh is poor and full of bones.

Family Conservation

IUCN: Not evaluated.

Family Remarks

Tarpons can tolerate a wide pH and salinity range. They are also able to withstand poorly oxygenated water by gulping air at the surface.


Dianne J. Bray


Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. 2002. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp. [333] (Tarpons)

Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the World. Hoboken, New Jersey : John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 601 pp.

Paxton, J.R., Gates, J.E., Bray, D.J. & Hoese, D.F. 2006. Megalopidae. pp. 223-224 in Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (eds). Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35 Australia : ABRS & CSIRO Publishing Parts 1-3 2178 pp.

Smith, D.G. 1999. Families Elopidae, Megalopidae. pp. 1619-1622 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 3 1397-2068 pp. [1621]