Common name: Oarfishes


Rare oceanic deepwater fishes with compressed, ribbon-like bodies. The rays of the dorsal fin extend the length of the body with the anterior rays forming an elongate crest originating in front of the eyes; the pelvic fins are rod or spike-like. Regalecus glesne, the Oarfish, is the longest of all bony fishes, with a long slender silvery body and brilliant red fins.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Oarfishes, REGALECIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 May 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

Small family with 2 genera and about 5 species; 2 genera and 2 species currently recognised from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Worldwide in all oceans, mesopelagic.

Family Description

Body extremely elongate, compressed, upper jaw greatly protrusible, maxilla broad, and like other lampridiform fishes, extends along with the premaxilla; jaw teeth minute. A single dorsal fin originating above eye, extending length of body, anterior rays elongate, crest-like, partially free from fin membrane; anal fin absent; pelvic fins very elongate, slender, with a single stout ray with fleshy tabs along its length and a small splint-like element at base; caudal fin usually absent in large specimens; rays of dorsal, pelvic and caudal fins (when present) with weakly developed spinules. Scales absent, except for tubular lateral-line scales, skin granular.

Family Size

Reach 8-10 m (unconfirmed reports to 17 m).

Family Feeding

Carnivores feeding on small deepwater crustaceans such as eupahusids, small fishes and squid.

Family Reproduction

Oviparous, eggs and larvae pelagic. Eggs large (3.25-4.05 mm diameter), reddish, buoyant, pelagic with numerous oil globules. Larvae pelagic, slender at hatching, rapidly elongate with growth, pelvic fins develop early, serving as a larval floatation devices. Larvae have pigmented swellings on pelvic and 4th dorsal-fin ray, Larval development is gradual, with no marked metamorphosis.

Family Commercial

Of very minor commercial importance and rarely taken as bycatch, including off eastern Australia; occasionally caught with encircling nets and marketed fresh.

Family Conservation

Not evaluated.

Family Remarks

Oarfishes are sometimes seen after severe storms and may be stranded ashore; they are thought to be responsible for many sea-serpent sightings in surface waters. Divers have reported that live oarfishes swim vertically, head up in the water column, undulating their dorsal fin in an eel-like fashion. The fleshy tabs on the elongated pelvic fins contain specialized cells resembling taste buds.


Dianne J. Bray


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Olney, J.E. 2005. Regalecidae: Oarfish, pp. 1009-1011, In W.J. Richards (ed). Early Stages Of Atlantic Fishes: An Identification Guide For The Western Central North Atlantic. CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, Boca Raton, FL, 2640 pp.

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