Common name: Beardfishes


Family of small- to medium-sized bottom-dwelling fishes with a conspicuous pair of barbels inserted below the middle of the lower jaw.

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Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Beardfishes, POLYMIXIIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 13 Jul 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

Small family with a single genus and 10 species; two species known from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Worldwide in tropical and temperate waters except the Northeast Pacific and Mediterranean Sea; benthic on soft and semi-hard substrates on outer continental and upper slope waters at 180-650 m.

Family Description

Body moderately elongate and compressed, head and eyes moderately large, snout high; mouth large, jaws slightly inferior, reaching posterior margin of eye or beyond, jaws with bands of villiform teeth; two long barbels extend from hyoid bone below middle of lower jaw. Single dorsal fin continuous, origin before midbody, with spinous anterior part; anal-fin origin far back on body; pectoral- and pelvic-fin bases in anterior half of body before dorsal-fin origin, pelvic fins subabdominal, origin behind that of pectoral fin; caudal fin forked. Scales spinoid, present on head and body. Branchiostegals 4; supramaxillae 2.

Family Size

to 50 cm.

Family Feeding

Carnivores, feeding on fishes, squid and crustaceans.

Family Reproduction

Presumed oviparous; nothing known of reproduction, eggs unknown; postflexion larvae and juveniles described, hyoid barbels present in postflexion larvae as unpigmented fleshy thickenings; metamorphosis from 4 mm.

Family Commercial

Not targeted, but common in some areas and caught as bycatch in commercial fisheries.


Dianne J. Bray


Kotlyar, A.N. 1992. A new species of the genus Polymixia from the submarine Kyushu-Palau Ridge, and notes on other representatives of the genus. Vopr. Ikhtiol. 32(6): 11-26. [in Russian, English transl. J. Ichthyol. 33(3)]

Kotlyar, A.N. 1996. Beryciform fishes of the world ocean. Moscow, VNIRO Publishing, 368 pp. [In Russian]

Lachner, E.A. 1955. Populations of the berycoid fish family Polymixiidae. Proc. U. S. Natl. Mus. 105(3356): 189-206.

Lyczkowski-Schultz, L. 2005. Polymixiidae: Beardfishes, pp. 1105-1108, In W.J. Richards (ed). Early Stages Of Atlantic Fishes: An Identification Guide For The Western Central North Atlantic. CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, Boca Raton, FL, 2640 pp.

Paxton, J.R. 1999. Polymixiidae, pp. 1976-1977, 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.