Southern Spotted Opah, Lampris australensis Underkoffler, Luers, Hyde & Craig 2018

Other Names: Arokura, Kingfish, Mariposa, Moon Fish, Moonfish, Opah, Opal Fish, Spotted Moonfish

A Southern Spotted Opah, Lampris australensis, washed ashore at Lake Tyers, Victoria, July 2016. Source: Jenny Allitt. License: All rights reserved


A steely-blue opah becoming silvery below, with numerous, mostly circular, white to silver spots that may extend to the red dorsal, anal and caudal fins, including numerous spots on the chest, head, and gill cover, and a yellow tinge on the margins of the dorsal, anal and caudal fins. The dorsal profile of the head is distinctly arched (convex).

These rare oceanic fishes are regularly taken as bycatch in tuna longline fisheries. Opahs are "warm-blooded" and regularly dive to depths below 200 metres where they feed on mesopelagic fishes, squids and crustaceans - and where water temperatures are below 4°C.

In Australia, this species was previously known as Lampris guttatus, a species that occurs in the Eastern North Atlantic.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Lampris australensis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 06 Jun 2023,

Southern Spotted Opah, Lampris australensis Underkoffler, Luers, Hyde & Craig 2018

More Info


Scotts Head, New South Wales, around southern Australia, to just north of Perth, Western Australia, including around Tasmania; also in the Tasman Sea off northern New South Wales. Elsewhere the species is circumglobal in the Southern Hemisphere: Australia, New Zealand, Chile and South Africa

Like it's relative Lampris guttatus, this rare epi- to mesopelagic fish presumably regularly dives to deep mesopelagic waters to feed during the day.


Dorsal fin I, 50-52; Anal fin 40-42; Pectoral fin 22-23; Pelvic fin 13-15.

Body laterally compressed, rounded, greatest depth slightly anterior to pelvic fins, 1.37–1.45 times in standard length; head length 2.7–2.8 times in standard length; dorsal profile of head distinctly convex (arched); eye diameter 5.0–5.2 in head length; pupil large; jaws protractible and lacking teeth; upper jaw shorter than lower jaw; lower jaw protruding slightly forward of upper jaw, tip narrowing to a blunt point; teeth absent from throat and palate. 

Lateral line angled above gill opening, arching above pectoral fins, and extending along mid-height of body through center of caudal peduncle. Scales small, thin, and easily removed over entire body. 

Dorsal fin long, the length of its base 1.6–1.8 times in standard length; Dorsal fin high, its height contained 2.5–2.7 in standard length; origin of pelvic fins below or posterior to middle of elongated portion of dorsal fin.


To about 2.1 metres total length, and a weight of 30 kg.


Dorsal-fin rays ≤ 53; head depth < 2.5 times in standard length; spots on body not as described above. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 4a. Dorsal profile of head distinctly arched (convex); spots on body mostly circular, largest about size of pupil; posterior edges of median fins often tinged with yellow


Carnivores - Opahs have diverse diets, and feed on a range of pelagic animals including fishes, cephalopods, crustaceans, and gelatinous animals.


Very little is known of the biology and ecology. Spawning reportedly occurs year-round near the surface in the tropics. During development, the pelagic larvae increase rapidly in body depth.

Opahs regularly dive to feed at mesopelagic depths below the thermocline where water temperatures are less than 4 degrees Celsius. Wegener et al. (2015) found that Opahs are whole-body endotherms. They produce heat through the constant “flapping” of their wing-like pectoral fins and minimize heat loss through a series of counter-current heat exchangers within the gills. Unlike other fishes that have been studied, Opahs distribute the warmed blood throughout the body, including to the heart, enhancing physiological performance and buffering the function of internal organs while foraging in the cold, nutrient-rich waters below the ocean thermocline. 

Previously, Runcie et al. (2009) found that Opahs have a brain-heater muscle that maintains the temperature of the brain about 2 degrees higher than that of the surrounding water.


Although not targeted directly, Southern Spotted Opahs are often taken pelagic longline tuna and billfish fisheries, including in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish fishery off the coast of Queensland and New South Wales (AFMA 2006). They are marketed fresh, and are reportedly very good eating.

Southern Spotted Opahs are also prized by recreational anglers fishing deep offshore waters.


Previously, molecular studies indicated that Lampris guttatus is complex of five cryptic species (Hyde et al. 2014). Underkoffler et al. (2018) determined that L. guttatus is restricted to the Eastern North Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea, and described the species found in Australia as L. australensis.

Similar Species

Differs from Lampris immaculatus in  having silvery-white spots on the body, a much deeper body, and longer pectoral and pelvic fins.


Lampris is from the Greek "lamprós", meaning radiant, brilliant or shining,in reference to the Opah’s brilliant coloration. The specific name australensis is from the Latin australis (= southern) in reference to the known range of the species in the southern hemisphere.

Species Citation

Lampris australensis Underkoffler, Luers, Hyde & Craig 2018, Zootaxa 4413(3): 556, Fig. 4C. Type locality: East of Tasman Island, Tasmania, 43°12'S, 148°18'E.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Australia

Southern Spotted Opah, Lampris australensis Underkoffler, Luers, Hyde & Craig 2018


Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA). 2006. Eastern tuna and billfish: Fishery Status Reviews tuna and billfish fisheries. Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra, Australia. 20 pp. (as Lampris guttatus)

Bray, D.J. 2008. Family Lamprididae. pp. 297 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp. (as Lampris guttatus)

Choy, C.A., E. Portner, M. Iwane & J.C. Drazen. 2013. The diets of five important predatory mesopelagic fishes of the central North Pacific. Marine Ecology Progress Series 492: 169-184.

Gilman, E., Clarke, S., Brothers, N., Alfaro-Shigueto-J., Mandelman, J., Mangel, J., Petersen, S., Piovano, S., Thomson, N., Dalzell, P., Donoso, M., Goren, M. & Werner, T. 2007. Shark depredation and unwanted bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries: industry practices and attitudes, and shark avoidance strategies. Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, Honolulu, USA. (in part as Lampris sp.)

Glover, C.J.M. 1994. Families Lampridae, Veliferidae, Lophotidae, Trachipteridae, Regalecidae, Fistulariidae. pp. 427-435 figs 382-387 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs (as Lampris guttatus)

Hawn, D.R. & Collette, B.B. 2012. What are the maximum size and live body coloration of opah (Teleostei: Lampridae: Lampris species)? Ichthyological Research 59(3): 272-275 (in part as Lampris guttatus

Hyde, J. R., K.E. Underkoffler & M.A. Sundberg. 2014. DNA barcoding provides support for a cryptic species complex within the globally distributed and fishery important opah (Lampris guttatus). Molecular Ecology Research 14: 1239–1247. (in part as Lampris guttatus)

Olney, J.E. 1999. Families Veliferidae, Lamprididae, Stylephoridae, Lophotidae, Radiicephalidae, Trachipteridae, Regalecidae. pp. 1966-1975 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. (in part as Lampris guttatus)

Stewart, A.L. 2015. Families Veliferidae, Lampridae,Lophotidae,Trachipteridae, Regalecidae. pp.681-694 in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 3 pp. 577-1152. [685] (as Lampris guttatus)

Underkoffler, K.E., Luers, M.A., Hyde, J.R. & Craig, M.T. 2018. A taxonomic review of Lampris guttatus (Brünnich 1788) (Lampridiformes; Lampridae) with descriptions of three new species. Zootaxa 4413(3): 551-565

Wegner, N.C., Snodgrass, O.E., Dewar, H. & J.R. Hyde. 2015. Whole-body endothermy in a mesopelagic fish, the opah, Lampris guttatus. Science 348 (6236): 786-789. DOI:10.1126/science.aaa8902

Whitley, G.P. 1950. The opah or moonfish in Australasia. Australian Museum Magazine 10(3): 76-78 (as Lampris guttatus)

Whitley, G.P. 1966. Marine Fishes of Australia. Brisbane : Jacaranda Press Vol. 1 pp. 1-142. (as Lampris guttatus)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37268001


Depth:10-400 m

Fishing:Commercial, recreational fish

Habitat:Oceanic: epi- & mesopelagic

Max Size:2.1 m; 270+ kg

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map