Common name: Sabretooth fishes



Voracious mesopelagic predators with dorsally-directed semi-tubular or tubular eyes (except in Odontostomops normalops), a massive lower jaw, enormous fang-like teeth in the roof of the mouth and lower jaw, and a dorsal adipose fin.

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Dianne J. Bray, Sabretooth fishes, EVERMANNELLIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Jul 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

A small family of mesopelagic fishes with three genera and seven species; three species in two genera are known from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Found throughout the oceanic midwaters in tropical and subtropical regions of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.

Sabretooth fishes have been collected down 1000 m, although as adults they usually occur between 400-800 m, possibly migrating towards surface waters to feed at night.

Family Description

Meristic features: Dorsal-fin rays 10-13; Anal-fin rays 26-37; Pectoral-fin rays 11-13; Pelvic-fin rays 9; Caudal-fin (principal rays) 1+9+8+1; Branchiostegal rays 8: Vertebrae 45-54.

Moderately elongate, strongly compressed fishes. Head large, massive, mouth very large, jaws extending far behind eye, lower jaw deep and massive; some teeth as enormous prominent fangs, barbed or unbarbed, in lower jaw and roof of mouth, upper jaw teeth small; eye small in one species, larger, semi-tubular or tubular and directed dorsolaterally or dorsally in others; gill rakers only on lower 2nd arch; upper and lower muscle masses on rear of body separated by distinct 3rd midlateral muscle band that is externally visible, normal scales absent, skin smooth, delicate; centre of high short-based dorsal fin just forward of middle of back, prominent adipose dorsal fin posteriorly, moderately long-based anal fin just before tail, caudal fin deeply forked, pectoral fins prominent, pelvic fins ventral inserted under dorsal fin; lateral line midlateral on side, poorly developed.

Family Size

To 18.5 cm SL

Family Colour

Body overall dark brownish, with a brassy greenish to brownish iridescence, and often with visibly spotted with darker melanophores.

Family Feeding

Voracious active predators that feed on other mesopelagic fishes and squid. Sabretooth fishes have a very distensible foregut and can swallow prey items much larger than themselves.

Family Reproduction

Sabretooths are synchronous hermaphrodites, having a functional ovitestis. Fertilisation is external, the larvae are epipelagic.

Family Commercial

Of no interest to fisheries.

Family Remarks

The Family Evermannellidae is named for the American ichthyologist, Barton W. Evermann.

Family Biology

Although sabretooth fishes do not have photophores, some species have an internal luminous organ as part of their gut.


Dianne J. Bray


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Herring, P.J. 1977. Bioluminescence in an evermannellid fish. Journal of Zoology. London 177: 297-307.

Hoese, D.F., D.J. Bray, J.R. Paxton & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells (eds.) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia Part 1, pp. xxiv 1-670; Part 2, pp. xxi 671-1472; Part 3, pp. xxi 1473-2178.

Johnson, R.K. 1986. Evermannellidae. p. 278-280. In Smith, M.M. & P.C. Heemstra (eds.) Smiths' sea fishes. MacMillan, Johanesburg.

Johnson, R.K. 1984. Evermannellidae. p. 489-493. In P.J.P. Whitehead, M.-L. Bauchot, J.-C. Hureau, J. Nielsen and E. Tortonese (eds.) Fishes of the north-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. UNESCO, Paris. Vol. 1.

Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the World. John Wiley & Sons.

Rofen, R.R. 1963. Diagnoses of new species of alepisauroid fishes of the family Evermannellidae. Aquatica, The Aquatic Res. Inst., Stockton, Calif., No. 1, pp. 1-2.

Rofen, R.R. 1966. Family Evermannellidae. Mem. Sears Fnd. Mar. Res. I(5): 511-565.