Deepsea Lizardfish, Bathysaurus ferox Günther 1878

Other Names: Deep-sea Lizardfish

A Deepsea Lizardfish, Bathysaurus ferox, in Veatch Canyon, Northeast U.S.. Source: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program. License: Public Domain


Voracious deep-sea predators that resemble shallow-water lizardfishes (family Synodontidae). Deepsea Lizardfish have a large bony flattened head and an enormous mouth filled with rows of needle-like depressible teeth that are clearly visible even when the mouth is closed. The Deepsea Lizardfish is greyish to blackish, and, unlike the Highfin Lizardfish, Bathysaurus mollis, lacks an adipose fin.

Video of a Deepsea Lizardfish filmed by an ROV in the Veatch Canyon, off NE USA, 22 June 2013 - taken by NOAA's Okeanos Explorer.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Bathysaurus ferox in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 Apr 2024,

Deepsea Lizardfish, Bathysaurus ferox Günther 1878

More Info


Widely distributed in deep waters of the Atlantic and Indo-West Pacific oceans. In Australian waters, the species occurs on the continental slope and abyss, from off northern New South Wales, southwards around Tasmania to southwest of Shark Bay, in depths between 900 and 2500 metres.


Dorsal fin 18–19; Anal fin 12–15; Caudal fin 19; Pectoral fin 13–16; Pelvic fin 8; Lateral line scales 67–71.

Body elongate, head extremely depressed, eye small, to moderate mouth enormous, upper jaw extending far beyond eye, lower jaw projecting slightly beyond upper jaw; teeth present on jaws and vomer; jaw teeth needle-like recurved, barbed and mostly depressible, overlapping onto outer surface of mouth.

Dorsal fin inserted about mid-body, just behind vertical from insertion of pelvic fins, about equal to head length; pectoral fins large, with one or more middle rays specialised and elongate; inner rays of pelvic fin slightly shorter than outer rays; adipose fin absent.

Body scales well-developed, lateral line scales enlarged, lateral line extending onto caudal-fin base; a row of scales present on procurrent and principle caudal-fin rays.


Maximum length greater than 70 cm.


Overall pale greyish to brown or blackish, with a blackish underside, scales edged with black; fins darker than body, pectoral and pelvic fins almost black; eyes, lining of mouth and gill cavity black.


Feeds mostly on fishes, and also on bottom-dwelling and bathypelagic decapod crustaceans.


Deepsea lizardfishes are simultaneus hermaphrodites, and have an ovotestis containing functioning male and female reproductive tissue. The eggs, larvae and postlarvae are pelagic. 


Althought this rarely seen predator is of no commmercial importance, it is occasionally taken by commercial trawlers fishing in very deep waters.



Like their shallow-water cousins (family Synodontidae), deepsea lizardfishes have been seen resting on the sea floor with their heads slightly elevated.

Similar Species


The specific name is from the Latin ferox (= fierce).

Species Citation

Bathysaurus ferox Günther 1878, Ann. Mag.Nat. Hist. 5 2(2, 22, 28): 182. Type locality: east coast of New Zealand.


Bray, D.J. 2017


Deepsea Lizardfish, Bathysaurus ferox Günther 1878


de Morais, L., de Bruyne, G., Carpenter, K.E. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 2015. Bathysaurus ferox. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T13462491A15603145. Downloaded on 18 June 2017.

Gomon, M.F. 2008. Bathysauridae. pp. 261-262 in Gomon, M.F., D.J. Bray & R.H. Kuiter (eds) Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. New Holland Publishers & Museum Victoria. 928 pp.

Günther, A. 1878. Preliminary notices of deep-sea fishes collected during the voyage of H.M.S. Challenger. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 5 2(2, 22, 28): 17–28, 179–187, 248–251.

Johnson, R.K. 1982. Fishes of the families Evermannellidae and Scopelarchidae: systematics, morphology, interrelationships and zoogeography. Fieldiana Zoology ns 12: 1–252, figs. 1–74.

Mead, G.W. 1966. Family Bathysauridae, Bathypteroidae, Ipnopidae and Chlorophthalmidae. p. 103-189. In W.W. Anderson et al. Fishes of the western North Atlantic. Part five. New Haven, Sears Found. Mar. Res., Yale Univ.

Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the World. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. New York. 4th edition. 601 pp.

Porteiro, F.M., Melo, O., Barreiros, J.P. & Gallagher, L. 1998. Postlarvae of Bathysaurus ferox (=Macristium chavesi) from the Azores waters. Arquipélago 16A: 63-67.

Regan, C.T.  1903. On a collection of fishes from the Azores. Annals and Magazine of Natural History (7)12 (69): 344-348.

Russell, B.C. 1999. Family Bathysauridae. 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.

Sulak, K.J. 1984. Synodontidae (including Macristiidae and Bathysauridae). pp. 405-411 in  Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielsen, J. & Tortonese, E. (eds). Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. UNESCO, Paris. vol. 1.

Sulak, K.J., Wenner, C.A., Sedberry, G.R. & L. Van Guelpen, 1985. The life history and systematics of deep-sea lizard fishes, genus Bathysaurus (Synodontidae). Canadian Journal of  Zoology 63: 623-642.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37118019

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:600-3500 m


Max Size:70 cm

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CAAB distribution map