Common name: Argentines, Herring Smelts



Small, silvery deep-sea fishes that live near the bottom. Most species are slender and cylindrical, with very large eyes and a small mouth. They have soft flesh and thin cycloid scales which are easily lost.

Argentines lack fin spines, and have short-based dorsal and anal fins, pectoral fins placed low on the body near the ventral surface and pelvic fins at about the middle of the body.

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Herring Smelts, ARGENTINIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Jul 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

The Family Argentinidae comprises the genera Argentina and Glossanodon, with about 24 species. Both genera and 3 described species are known from Australian waters. Argentinids were revised (as the subfamily Argentininae) by Cohen (1958, 1964). Cohen & Atsaides (1970) revised the genus Argentina. Relationships of the genera of argentinids and bathylagids have been the subject of some debate. Ahlstrom et al. (1984) and Begle (1992) removed the subfamily Microstomatinae and its three genera from Argentinidae, assigning it familial rank, more closely related to the Bathylagidae. Five specimens of an unidentified species of Argentina, housed in the Australian Museum, from the Northwest Shelf and off Raine Island, Queensland, are not part of the A. australiae—elongata species complex. The family is in need of revision and other species may occur in Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Found worldwide in tropical to temperate, and northern latitudes of all oceans, although they are rare in the tropical Pacific. Argentines are meso- and benthopelagic on the outer shelf and upper slope in depths from 100 to 1400 m. Some species live in schools and are locally abundant.

Family Description

Meritis features: Dorsal fin 10-14; Anal fin 10-17; Pectoral fin 11-25; Pelvic fin 10-15; Brachiostegal rays 4-6;. Vertebrae 43-70 (many with 46-55).

Small to moderate-sized slender fishes; head moderate in size, snout pointed, eye moderate to large, not tubular; mouth small, premaxilla present, maxilla not reaching anterior edge of orbit; jaw teeth small, teeth present on vomer and palatines, present or absent on tongue; single short-based dorsal fin before middle of body, pectoral fins small, close to ventral edge of body, small dorsal adipose fin often present near tail above short-based anal fin; caudal fin large, forked; scales cycloid or spinose, deciduous, radii absent; lateral line near lateral midline of side, not extending onto tail; no light organs or luminous tissue; body often silvery with brilliant silver or dark longitudinal stripe.

Family Size

Reach a length of 70 cm, although most only reach 25 cm.

Family Colour

Many species are silvery and iridescent, with a distinct silvery or brownish stripe along the sides.

Family Feeding

Argentinids are carnivores and feed mostly on benthic invertebrates such as crustaceans (crabs, squat lobsters, prawns, amphipods and isopods), polychaete worms, echinoderms and gastropods, plus some fishes. They also reportedly feed on salps and sponges.

Family Reproduction

Oviparous - the sexes are separate and fertilisation is external. Females lay small, round pelagic eggs, 1.3-3.5mm diameter. Larvae have a protracted development from the slender pelagic stage to a metamorphosed juvenile. Pelagic juveniles often retain their larval pigmentation.

Family Commercial

Although argentinids are rarely of commercial importance and are occasionally taken as bycatch in commercial shrimp trawls, many slip through coarse mesh of deepwater commercial nets. One of the larger species is sold fresh or as fish meal. They are an important prey item of many commercial fish species.

Family Conservation

IUCN Red List: Not evaluated.


Ahlstrom, E.H., H.G. Moser & D.M. Cohen. 1984. Argentinoidei: development and relationships, pp. 155-169, figs 82-88. 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. Am. Soc. Ichthyol. Herpetol. Spec. Publ. No. 1: 155-169.

Begle, D.P. 1992. Monophyly and relationships of argentinoid fishes. Copeia 1992(2): 350-366

Clark, M.R. 1985. Food and feeding of seven fish species from the Campbell Plateau, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 19: 339-363.

Cohen, D.M. 1958. A revision of the fishes of the subfamily Argentininae. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum, Biological Sciences 3(3): 93-172.

Cohen, D.M. 1964. Suborder Argentinoidea. In Olsen, Y.H. (ed.) Fishes of the Western North Atlantic. Memoir. Sears Foundation of Marine Research 1(4): 1-70 figs 1-20.

Cohen, D.M. 1986. Argentinidae. p. 215-216. In M.M. Smith & P.C. Heemstra (eds.) Smiths' sea fishes. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Cohen, D.M. & S.P. Atsaides. 1969. Additions to a revision of Argentinine fishes. U. S. Fish Wildl. Serv. Fish. Bull. 68(1): 13-36.

Endo, H. & K. Nashida. 2010. Glossodon kotakamaru, a new argentine fish from southern Japan (Protacanthopterygii: Argentinidae). Bulletin of the National Museum of Nature and Science (Ser. A) Suppl. 4: 119-127.

Gomon, M.F. 2008. Family Argentinidae, In Gomon, M.F., D.J. Bray & R.H. Kuiter (eds.) Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. New Holland Publishers & Museum Victoria, Melbourne, Australia. 928 p.

Jones, M.R.L.2009. Diets of eight fish species from the upper slope off the Wairarapa coast, North Island, New Zealand, with notes on the diets of others. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 43(4): 929-939

Kobyliansky, S.G. 1998. Four new Indo-Pacific species and a new key to species of the genus Glossanodon (Argentinidae). J. Ichthyol. 38(9): 697-707.

May, J.L. & J.G.H. Maxwell. 1986. Trawl fish from temperate waters of Australia. CSIRO Division of Fisheries Research, Tasmania. 492 p.

Moser, H.G. 1996. Argentinidae: argentines. pp. 185-187. In H.G. Moser (ed.) The early stages of fishes in the California Current Region. California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations Atlas No. 33. Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas. 1505 p.

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

Paxton, J.R. & D.M. Cohen. 1999. Families Argentinidae, Microstomatidae, Bathylagidae, and Opisthoproctidae. 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.

Paxton, J.R., J.E. Gates, D.J. Bray & D.F. Hoese. 2006. Argentindae, pp. 369-370. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. Fishes. Part 1, pp. xxiv 1-670

Robertson, D.A. 1975. A key to the planktonic eggs of some New Zealand marine teleosts. Fisheries Research Division, Occasional Publication 9: 19.