Common name: Armorheads, Armourheads, Boarfishes



A distinctive group of compressed, moderately deep to deep-bodied fishes, with the head almost completely encased in exposed, striated bones.

Boarfishes have a small mouth, and many species have elongate snouts, especially as adults. Fins and fin spines are often prominent, the pelvic fins are large and the upper pectoral fin-rays are much longer than the lower.

Species live near the bottom, some in coastal waters, others on the outer continental shelf and upper slope, often around seamounts. Maximum length is 91 cm.

Kim (2012) described the osteological and myological characteristics of the family.

Key to southern Australian of PENTACEROTIDAE.

1a. Soft dorsal-fin base much longer than base of spinous portion; segment dorsal-fin rays 25-29 .......... 2

1b. Soft dorsal-fin base shorter than, or about same length as base of spinous portion; segmented dorsal-fin rays 8-18 .......... 3

2a. Pelvic‑fin bases anterior to pectoral‑fin bases; scales on opercles and subopercles; pored lateral line scales 66-72 .......... Parazanclistius

2b. Pelvic‑fin bases posterior to pectoral‑fin bases; scales absent from opercle and subopercle; pored lateral-line scales 55-65 .......... Zanclistius        

3a. Anal-fin spines II-III; dorsal fin VII-XI, 14-18; snout noticeably attenuated, much longer than eye diameter .......... 4

3b. Anal-fin spines IV-V; dorsal fin XI-XV, 8-14; snout not especially attenuated, length about equal to eye diameter .......... 5

4a. Dorsal fin VII‑VIII, 16‑18; anterior segmented dorsal-fin rays only slightly longer than those posteriorly, not forming pointed lobe .......... Paristiopterus

4b. Dorsal fin X‑XI, 14‑15; anterior segmented dorsal-fin rays much longer than those posteriorly forming distinctly pointed lobe .......... Pentaceropsis

5a. Pored lateral‑line scales 45-53; dorsal‑fin rays XI‑XIII, 12‑14 .......... Pentaceros

5b. Pored lateral‑line scales 70-89; dorsal‑fin rays XIV‑XV, 8‑9 .......... Pseudopentaceros

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Boarfishes, PENTACEROTIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Jul 2024,

More Info

Family Taxonomy

A small family with 7 genera and 13 species. All genera and 10 species are found in Australian waters.

In a recent study of osteological and myological characters, Kim (2012) concluded that the genus Pseudopentaceros is a junior synonym of Pentaceros.

Family Distribution

Pentacerotids are found in subantarctic to temperate waters of the Indo-Pacific and southwestern Atlantic oceans. Although some species are found in shallow waters, many often live around seamounts in deeper waters of the continental shelf and upper slope.

Family Description

Meristic features: Dorsal fin IV-XIV, 9-29; Anal fin II-V, 7-13; Pelvic fins I, 5.

Family Size

To a maximum length of 91 cm.

Family Feeding


Family Commercial

Several species are taken in commercial trawl operations throughout thier range, and are marketed fresh in Australia.

Family Conservation

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: two species have been evaluated as Least Concern


Dianne J. Bray

Family Resources



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Allen, G.R., Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Randall, J.E., Russell, B.C., Starck, W.A., Talbot, F.H. & Whitley, G.P. 1976. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30(15): 365-454 figs 1-2

Bray, D.J., Hoese, D.F. & Paxton, J.R. 2006. Pentacerotidae (pp. 1312–1316). In  Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (eds). Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Vol.35.2 ABRS & CSIRO Publishing, Australia

Gomon, M.F. 2008. Family Pentacerotidae (pp. 611–617). In Gomon, M.F., Bray,D. & Kuiter, R.H. The Fishes of Australia’s Southern Coast. New Holland Publishers, Chatswood, Australia.

Hardy, G.S. 1983. A revision of the fishes of the family Pentacerotidae (Perciformes). New Zealand Journal of Zoology 10: 177-220 figs 1-13

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Hardy, G.S. 1990. Pentacerotidae. In Amaoka, K., Matsuura, K., Inada, T., Takeda, M., Hatanaka, H & Okada, K.  (eds). Fishes collected by the R/V Shinkai Maru around New Zealand. Japan Marine Fishery Resource Research Center, Tokyo, pp. 285.

Hardy, G.S. 1994. Pentacerotidae. pp. 629-636, figs 553-559 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.

Heemstra, P.C. 1986. Pentacerotidae (pp. 622-623). In Smith, M.M. & Heemstra, P.C. (eds). Smiths’ Sea Fishes. MacMillan, South Africa.

Heemstra, P.C. 2001. Pentacerotidae. pp. 3288-3289 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. 5 2791-3379 pp.

Humphrys, R.L., Winans, G.A. & Tagami, D.T. 1989. Synonymy and life history of the north Pacific pelagic armorhead, Pseudopentaceros wheeleri Hardy (Pisces: Pentacerotidae). Copeia 1989(1): 142-153 figs 1-3.

IUCN REd List of Threatened Species

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Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal fishes of south-eastern Australia. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to sea fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.

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.

Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the world. 4th ed. John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Hoboken, New Jersey, 601 pp.

Steindachner, F. & Döderlein, L. 1883. Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Fische Japan's (II). Denkschriften der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften 48: 1–40.

Waite, E.R. 1921. Illustrated catalogue of the fishes of South Australia. Records of the South Australian Museum 2(1): 1-208, 293 figs, pl. 1

Whitley, G.P. 1944. Illustrations of some Western Australian fishes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales 1943–44: 25–29.