Giant Hatchetfish, Argyropelecus gigas Norman 1930

Other Names: Hatchetfish

A Giant Hatchetfish, Argyropelecus gigas, collected in 2003 on the NORFANZ expedition to the seamounts of the Tasman Sea. Source: Robin McPhee & Mark McGrouther / NORFANZ Founding Parties. License: All rights reserved


Marine hatchetfishes are so-named because of their distinct body shape - with the sharp row of scutes along the belly somewhat resembling a hatchet blade.

This large hatchetfish has upwardly-directed eyes, the body margin elevated behind the high dorsal blade, a deep tail base, and the ventral keel scales extending well below the abdominal photophores forming flaplike process.

The supra-abdominal, preanal, anal, and subcaudal photophores are in an almost continuous straight line, and there is a distinct gap between each subcaudal photophore.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Argyropelecus gigas in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 May 2024,

Giant Hatchetfish, Argyropelecus gigas Norman 1930

More Info


Widespread in all oceans except the North Pacific. Recorded in Australian waters from off Cape York, southwards around the country to off NW Western Australia, and widespread in the Tasman Sea. Usually occurs at depths between 200-1200 m, although mostly at 400-600 m.


Dorsal fin 9 (rarely 10); Anal fin 12-13; Pectoral fin 10-11; Gill rakers (total) 18-21; Vertebrae 38-39.


To about 12 cm SL


Carnivore - feeds on small crustaceans.


Although of no interest to fisheries, the Giant Hatchetfish is relatively abundant in parts of its range.

Species Citation

Argyropelecus gigas Norman, 1930, Discovery Reports 2: 302, fig. 10. Type locality: Gulf of Guinea, 800-1000 m. [2°49´30"S, 9°25´30"W]. 


Dianne J. Bray

Giant Hatchetfish, Argyropelecus gigas Norman 1930


Baird, R.C. 1971. The Systematics, distribution, and zoogeography of the marine hatchetfishes (family Sternoptychidae). Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zooology 142(1):1–128.

Borodulina, O.D. 1978. Materials on the systematics and distribution of the oceanic hatchet-fishes genera Argyropelecus and Sternoptyx (Sternoptychidae, Osteichthyes). Trudy Instituta Okeanologii. Akademiya Nauk SSSR. Moskva 111: 28-60 figs 1-16 [in Russian]

Harold, A.S. & Gomon, M.F. 2008. Various family accounts. pp. 225 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Harold, A.S. 1999. Families Gonostomatidae, Sternoptychidae, Phosichthyidae, Astronesthidae, Stomiidae, Chauliodontidae, Melanostomiidae, Idiacanthidae, Malacosteidae. pp. 1896-1917 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 Pp.1397-2068.

Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Checklist of the fishes of Western Australia Fishes of Tasmania. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 63: 9-50

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

Norman, J.R. 1930. Oceanic fishes and flatfishes collected in 1925–1927. Discovery Reports 2: 261-370 figs 1-47 pls 1-2

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37107005


Feeding:200-1200 m


Max Size:12 cm SL

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