Common name: Slender Anglerfishes, Whipnose Anglers, Whipnose Deepsea Anglerfishes



Females are large deepsea anglerfishes (Suborder Ceratioidei) with a long, streamlined body covered in small, close-set spinules, and an extremely long ‘fishing rod’ tipped with a bioluminescent lure (esca).

The first dorsal-fin spine (illicium) emerges from the tip of the snout and is equal to or much longer than the body in length. The tiny males are free-living, and are not parasitic on the much larger females.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Whipnose Anglers, GIGANTACTINIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Jun 2024,

More Info

Family Taxonomy

Family with 2 genera and more than 20 species.

Family Distribution

Worldwide in all oceans; bathypelagic usually at 1000-2500 m or deeper.

Family Description

Females: body very elongate, relatively streamlined, head rather small, caudal peduncle long, slender; mouth inferior, upper jaw jutting beyond lower jaw; illicium greatly prolonged, up to 4 times body length, tipped with biolumiescent esca; 5 radial bones at base of pectoral finrays, pelvic fins absent. 
Males free-living, not parasitic on females, with minute eyes, large olfactory organs, anterior nostrils close together and opening anteriorly, degenerate premaxillae, no jaw teeth, denticular teeth all or nearly all mutually free (upper 3-6, rarely 2, and lower 4-7, rarely 3), single head on hyomandibular bone, 6 (rarely 7) branchiostegal rays, 5 pectoral radials and no pelvic bones.

Family Size

Among the largest known ceratioid anglerfishes - females to 410 mm SL, males to 22 mm.

Family Colour

The females are readily distinguished from those of the other ten families of the suborder by having an elongate streamlined shape, a relatively small head and slender caudal peduncle, five pectoral radials, and a greatly prolonged illicium that reaches a length between one and four times standard length.

Family Feeding

Voracious carnivores that reportedly feed on squid and crustaceans.

Family Reproduction

Although the larvae closely resemble those of antennariids (shallow water anglerfishes), they have larger pectoral fins, a single cephalic spine and the illicium in females develops early during preflexion (during flexion stage in antennariids).

Family Commercial

Of no commercial importance.

Family Remarks

Whipnose anglerfishes may use their esca to lure prey living near the bottom, and may be capable of swimming upside down. All species have been treated in Pietsch (2009).


Dianne J. Bray


Bertelsen, E. 1951. The ceratioid fishes. Ontogeny, taxonomy, distribution and biology. Dana Rept. 39: 276 pp.

Bertelsen, E., T.W. Pietsch & R.J. Lavenberg. 1981. Ceratioid anglerfishes of the family Gigantactinidae: Morphology, systematics, and distribution. Nat. Hist. Mus. L. A. Co., Contri. Sci. 332, vi , 74 pp.

Bertelsen, E. & T.W. Pietsch. 1998. Revision of the deepsea anglerfish genus Rhynchactis Regan (Lophiiformes: Gigantactinidae), with descriptions of two new species. Copeia 1998(3): 583-590.

Moore, J.A. 2002. Upside-Down Swimming Behaviour in a Whipnose Anglerfish (Teleost: Ceratioidei: Gigantactinidae). Copeia 2002(4): 1144-1146.

Pietsch, T.W. 1999. Gigantactinidae. Whipnose anglerfishes (deepsea anglerfishes. P. 2036, 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.

Pietsch, T.W. 2005. Dimorphism, parasitism, and sex revisited: modes of reproduction among deep-sea ceratioid anglerfishes (Teleostei: Lophiiformes). Ichthyol. Res. 52: 207-236.

Pietsch, T.W. 2009. Oceanic Anglerfishes: Extraordinary Diversity in the Deep Sea. University of California press, 576 pp.

Pietsch, T.W. & Kenaley, C.P. 2005. Gigantactinidae. Whipnose seadevils. Version 06 November 2005 (under construction). in The Tree of Life Web Project,