Butterfly Mackerel, Gasterochisma melampus Richardson 1845

Other Names: Big-scaled Mackerel, Butterfly Kingfish, Butterfly Tuna, Scaly Tuna

Angler Simon Falkiner with the Butterfly Mackerel, Gasterochisma melampus, he caught SE of Portland, Victoria - weight 41.8kg. Source: Jo Steff / Matthew Hunt Fishing Services Pty Ltd. License: All rights reserved


A tuna relative with a silvery bluish back and bright silvery sides, and black pelvic fins. Juveniles have enormous black pelvic fins - hence the common name.

In Australia, Butterfly Mackerel are mostly taken as by-catch in the tuna fishing grounds of southern Australia.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Schultz, S. 2022, Gasterochisma melampus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 01 Apr 2023, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/2541

Butterfly Mackerel, Gasterochisma melampus Richardson 1845

More Info


Townsville, Queensland, around southern Australia, to North-West Cape, Western Australia, including around Tasmania. Elsewhere the species is circumglobal in southern hemisphere waters, mostly between 35°S-50°S.

An epipelagic species, usually found from the surface to below 200 m over deep oceanic waters. Appears to migrate north-south on a seasonal basis, preferring water temperatures between eight and ten degrees.


Dorsal fin XVI-XVII + I, 9-10 + 6-8 finlets; Anal fin II, 9-10; Pectoral fin 19-22; Caudal fin 17; Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line scales 64-70; Gill rakers about 25; Vertebrae 44. 

Body compressed, depth 3.5 times into fork length; jaws with small, conical teeth forming a single series; swim bladder present.

Dorsal fins widely separate; second dorsal and anal fins each followed by 6-8 finlets; pectoral fins short; pelvic fins extremely large in juveniles, giving a winged appearance, folding into a deep pelvic groove at all sizes.

Body covered in large cycloid scales, corselet absent; caudal peduncle with two small keels, lateral keel absent.


To at least 165 cm fork length (FL).


Dark blue dorsally, silvery on sides and belly. Lacks spots, stripes or other markings.


Stomach contents of a specimen from north of the Hawaiian Archipelago included squid, bony fishes and bird feathers.


The biology is poorly known, and larvae are yet to be identified. Like some other scombrids, this species has a specialised brain and eye-heating organ that gives the Butterfly Mackerel an advantage over their cold-blooded prey.


The species is taken as by-catch by tuna-longliners targeting Southern Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus maccoyii. It is also caught by game fishers in southern Australia.


Butterfly Tuna are known to associate with schools of Southern Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus maccoyii.


The specific name is from the Greek melampus is from Greek. Melampus was apparently a seer who could speak to birds.

Species Citation

Gasterochisma melampus Richardson 1845, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (1)15(99): 346./ Type locality: Port Nicholson, New Zealand.


Bray, D.J. & Schultz, S. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Australian Faunal Directory

Catalog of Fishes

Butterfly Mackerel, Gasterochisma melampus Richardson 1845


Block, B.A., Finnerty, J.R., Stewart, A.F.R. & Kidd, J. 1993. Evolution of endothermy in fish: mapping physiological traits on a molecular phylogeny. Science 260: 210-214.

Collette, B., Boustany, A., Carpenter, K.E., Di Natale, A., Fox, W., Graves, J., Juan Jorda, M., Miyabe, N., Nelson, R., Oxenford, H. & Uozumi, Y. 2011. Gasterochisma melampus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T170340A6756181. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2011-2.RLTS.T170340A6756181.en. Accessed on 01 August 2022.

Collette, B.B. & Graves, J.E. 2019. Tunas and billfishes of the world. Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 351 pp.

Collette, B.B. & Nauen, C.E. 1983. FAO species catalogue. Scombrids of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of tunas, mackerels, bonitos and related species known to date. Fisheries Synopsis No. 125, Vol. 2. Rome : FAO. 137 pp. 81 figs

Fraser-Brunner, A. 1950. The fishes of the family Scombridae. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 12 3(7): 131-163 figs 1-35

Gomon, M.F. 2008. Families Sphyraenidae to Centrolophidae. pp. 774-800 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Gomon, M.F. & Robertson, E.M. 1994. Family Scombridae. pp. 819-828, figs 724-732 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.

Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp.

Ito, R.T., Hawn, D.R. & Collette, B.B. 1994. First record of the butterfly kingfish Gasterochisma melampus (Scombridae) from the north Pacific Ocean. Japanese Journal of Ichthyology 40(4): 482-486.

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)

Kohno, H. 1984. Osteology and systematic position of the butterfly mackerel, Gasterochisma melampus. Japanese Journal of Ichthyology 31: 268-286.

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs.

May, J.L. & Maxwell, J.G.H. 1986. Field Guide to Trawl Fish from Temperate Waters of Australia. Hobart : CSIRO Division of Marine Research 492 pp.

Paulin, C., Stewart, A., Roberts, C. & McMillan, P. 1989. New Zealand fish: a complete guide. National Museum of New Zealand Miscellaneous Series 19: 1-279.

Pepperell, J. 2010. Fishes of the Open Ocean a Natural History & Illustrated Guide. Sydney : University of New South Wales Press Ltd 266 pp.

Richardson, J. 1845. Generic characters of Gasterochisma melampus, a fish which inhabits Port Nicholson, New Zealand. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 1 15(99): 346. See ref at BHL

Roberts, C.D. 2015. 232 Family Scombridae. pp. 1623-1638 in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. (eds). The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 4 pp. 1153-1748.

Stead, D.G. 1907. Additions to the Fish-Fauna of New South Wales. No. 1. Sydney : Department of Fisheries, New South Wales 27 pp. See ref at BHL

Warashina, I. & Hisada, K. 1972. Geographical distribution and body length composition of two tuna-like fishes, Gasterochisma melampus Richardson and Allothunnus fallai Serventy, taken by Japanese tuna longline fishery. Far Seas Fisheries Research Laboratory Bulletin 6: 51-74.

Yearsley, G.K., Last, P.R. & Ward, R.D. (eds) 1999. Australian Seafood Handbook. Hobart : CSIRO Marine Research 460 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37441019

Danger:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-200+ m

Fishing:Minor commercial, gamefish

Habitat:Epipelagic, oceanic

Max Size:164 cm FL

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