Shortfin Batfish, Zabidius novemaculeatus (McCulloch 1916)

Other Names: Ninespine Batfish, Ninespined Batfish, Nine-spined Batfish, Short-fin Batfish, Short-finned Batfish

A Shortfin Batfish, Zabidius novemaculeatus, on North West Cape, Westrn Australia, August 2018. Source: Alex Hoschke / License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial

A silvery batfish with a narrow dark band on the head through the eye, another band through the gill cover and pectoral-fin base, dusky vertical fins with darker margins, dark pelvic fins, and two rows of whitish spots above the lateral line. The vertical bands are distinct in juveniles and fade with growth.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Zabidius novemaculeatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 17 Aug 2022,

Shortfin Batfish, Zabidius novemaculeatus (McCulloch 1916)

More Info


Onslow, Western Australia, to Moreton Bay, Queensland. The species also occurs in New Guinea. Mostly inhabits silty-sand areas near coastal reefs, rarely occurring on reefs.


Dorsal fin IX, 27-29; Anal fin III, 20-22. 
Body orbicular and strongly compressed, its depth more than twice head length and 1.2 to 1.4 times in SL. Head length 3.1 to 3.6 times in SL. Head profile of adults with a slight bump between eyes. Snout, preopercle flange, and lower jaw naked, rest of head scaly. Jaws with 2 to 4 rows flattened, tricuspid teeth. Small patch of teeth on vomer. Palatines toothless. Five pores on each side of lower jaw. Preopercle with a few rudimentary serrae along its rounded angle. Opercle with a flat spine, and a rounded bone on its upper portion 


Silvery, with faint dark horizontal lines between scale rows. Brown band from top of head through eye to chest (fading with growth). Another, less distinct, curved dark bands from nape across operculum and pectoral-fin base to belly. Median fins dusky or pale with dark margins. 


Inhabits trawl grounds and is taken as bycatch.


The specific name novemmaculeatus is from the Latin novem (= nine) and aculeatus (= prickly, thorny), in reference to the dorsal fin having nine spines. 'They differ from all other species of Platax in having nine dorsal spines.'

Species Citation

Platax novemaculeatus McCulloch 1916, Biological Results of the Fishing Experiments carried on by the F.I.S. Endeavour 1909-1914 4(4): 188. Type locality: Four to twenty miles N.E. of Gloucester Head, Queensland, 19-35 fathoms.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Shortfin Batfish, Zabidius novemaculeatus (McCulloch 1916)


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls. 

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp. 

Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls. 

Grant, E.M. 1991. Fishes of Australia. Brisbane : EM Grant Pty Ltd 480 pp. 
Heemstra, P.C. 2001. Ephippidae. pp. 3611-3622 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 6 pp. 3381-4218. 

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3) 

Johnson, J.W. & Gill, A.C. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of Sweers Island, Gulf of Carpentaria. Gulf of Carpentaria Scientific Study Report. Geography Monograph Series. Brisbane: Royal Geographic Society of Queensland. pp. 239-260 

Kuiter, R.H. & Debelius, H. 2001. Surgeonfishes, Rabbitfishes and Their Relatives. A comprehensive guide to Acanthuroidei. Chorleywood, U.K. : TMC Publishing 208 pp. 

Larson, H.K. & Williams, R.S. 1997. Darwin Harbour fishes: a survey and annotated checklist. pp. 339-380 in Hanley, H.R., Caswell, G., Megirian, D. & Larson, H.K. (eds). The Marine Flora and Fauna of Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory, Australia. Proceedings of the Sixth International Marine Biology Workshop. Darwin : Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory 466 pp. 

McCulloch, A.R. 1916. Report on some fishes obtained by the F.I.S. Endeavour on the coasts of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South and South-Western Australia. Part 4. Biological Results of the Fishing Experiments carried on by the F.I.S. Endeavour 1909-1914 4(4): 169-199 figs 1-2 pls 49-58 

Ramm, D.C., Pender, P.J., Willing, R.S. & Buckworth, R.C. 1990. Large-scale spatial patterns of abundance within the assemblage of fish caught by prawn trawlers in Northern Australian waters. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 41(1): 79-95.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs. 

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs. 

Russell, B.C. 1983. Annotated checklist of the coral reef fishes in the Capricorn-Bunker group, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Special Publication Series 1: 1-184 figs 1-2 

Sainsbury, K.J., Kailola, P.J. & Leyland, G.G. 1984. Continental Shelf Fishes of Northern and North-Western Australia. Canberra : Fisheries Information Service 375 pp. figs & pls. 

Whitley, G.P. 1930. Ichthyological miscellanea. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 10(1): 8-31 fig. 1 pl. 1

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37362003

Depth:10-40 m

Habitat:Silty-sand areas

Max Size:48 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map