Common name: Barreleyes, Spookfishes


A bizarre group of rare deepsea fishes with telescopic eyes usually directed either forwards or upwards. One spookfish species, Dolichopteryx longipes, has unique tubular eyes that use both refractive and reflective optics. Each eye is divided, with one part looking upwards, and the other looking downwards. Although the lower eye has no lens, the dim light entering the eye is focussed onto the retina via a tapetum, or mirror, in front of the retina.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Barreleyes, OPISTHOPROCTIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 May 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

A small family with eight genera and about nineteen species worldwide; three genera and three species are known from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Barreleyes and spookfishes are meso-, bathy- and benthobathypelagic fishes found in tropical to temperate waters of all oceans.

Family Size

Although one species reaches a length of 50 cm, most species are much smaller.

Family Feeding

Reportly feed on siphonophores, jellyfishes and hydroids.

Family Reproduction

Reproductive mode: oviparous with small pelagic eggs. Larvae are pelagic, and larval development is gradual.

Family Commercial

Rare deep-sea fishes of no commercial importance.

Family Conservation

Not evaluated.

Family Remarks

Some species have ventral light organs containing luminescent bacteria.


Dianne J. Bray


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Cohen, D.M. 1964. “Suborder Argentinoidei,” in Fishes of the Western North Atlantic, Mem. Sears Found. Mar. Res. 1(4): 70.

Gomon, M.F. 2008. Family Opisthoproctidae, p. 198, In Gomon, M.F., D.J. Bray & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. New Holland Publishers and Museum Victoria, Melbourne Australia. 1-198p.

Moser, H.G. 1996. Opisthoproctidae: Spookfishes. Pp. 216-223, In H.G. Moser (ed.) The early stages of fishes in the California Current region. CalCOFI Atlas 33. Allen Press, Lawrence, KS, 1505 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.  2006. Family Opisthoproctidae, In Hoese, D.F., D.J. Bray, G.R. Allen, J.R. Paxton, Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. Zoological Catalogue of Australia Volume 35, Parts 1 – 3. Fishes. CSIRO Publishing / Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS). 2248 pp.

Wagner, H-J., R.H. Douglas, T.M. Frank, N.W. Roberts & J.C. Partridge.  2009. A novel vertebrate eye using both refractive and reflective optics. Current Biology 19: 108–114.