Common name: Giant herrings



Medium-sized fishes with a slender silvery body, a large mouth reaching beyond the eye, a single short-based dorsal fin on the middle of the back, abdominal pelvic fins positioned below the dorsal fin, pectoral fins low on the sides just behind the gill openings, and a strongly forked tail. Elopids have a long bony plate (the gular plate) under the chin between the lower jaws; body covered in small smooth scales and a straight lateral line.
Their leptocephalus larvae also have forked tails.

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Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Giant herrings, ELOPIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 13 Jul 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

A small family of bony fishes comprising a single genus Elops with seven species. Two species are known from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Widely distributed in most tropical-subtropical and many temperate marine and coastal waters. Tenpounders mostly inhabit shallow coastal waters, often entering estuaries and occasionally venturing upstream into fresh water. 

Family Description

Meristics: Dorsal-fin rays 17-19; Anal-fin rays 14-17; Lateral line scales ~100; Branchiostegal rays 20-25. Body elongate, cylindrical, somewhat compressed, caudal peduncle deep. Eye large, mouth large, terminal, jaws equal in length, exending well beyond eye; teeth small, granular. A distinctive bony plate (gular plate) present between the lower jaw bones; gill membranes widely separate and free from the isthmus. All fins lack spines; a single dorsal fin begins slightly behind midbody, anal fin shorter-based, similar to dorsal fin, about midway between dorsal and caudal fins; caudal fin large, deeply forked; pectoral fins low on body, below hind margin of operculum; pelvic fins abdominal, below dorsal-fin origin. Scales small, cycloid, absent from head but on bases of dorsal and anal fins.

Family Size

To 1.2m, commonly to 50cm. Rarely reach 5kg.

Family Colour

Silvery fishes, usually bluish or greenish-grey above, sides silvery, fins may have a yellowish tinge.

Family Feeding

Tenpounders are carnivores and feed on a range of small fishes and invertebrates such as crustaceans. 

Family Reproduction

Elopids spawn offshore and have an elongate leaf-like leptocephalus larval stage. Unlike most of their eel-like relatives, elopid leptocephali have strongly forked tails. The larvae move shorewards as they grow and are often found in inshore and estuarine areas.

Family Commercial

Elopids are taken with seines, gill nets and by hook and line throughout their range. In Australian waters, they are caught by recreational fishers. Although elopids are good sport fishes, they are very bony and considered to be poor eating.

Family Conservation

Family Remarks

Elopids are often seen in schools, and little is known of their biology.


Dianne J. Bray


Bray, D.J. 2008. Family Elopidae: giant herrings, ten pounders. p. 154-155. In Gomon, M.F., D.J. Bray & R.H. Kuiter. Fishes of Australia’s southern coast. New Holland Publishers: Chatswood, Australia.

Gloerfelt-Tarp, T. & P.J. Kailola. 1984. Trawled fishes of southern Indonesia and northwestern Australia. Australian Development Assistance Bureau, Australia, Directorate General of Fishes, Indonesia, and German Agency for Technical Cooperation, Federal Republic of Germany. 407 p.

Hildebrand, S.F. 1963. Family Elopidae. p. 111-131. In Olsen, Y.H. (ed.) Fishes of the western North Atlantic. Mem. Sears Fndn. Mar. Res. 1(3): 111–131 figs 19–21.

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.

McBride, R.S., C.R. Rocha, R. Ruiz-Carus & B.W. Bowen. 2010. A new species of ladyfish, of the genus Elops (Elopiformes: Elopidae), from the western Atlantic Ocean. Zootaxa 2346: 29-41.

Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the World (4th edn.) New York : John Wiley & Sons, 601 p.

Smith, D.G. 1999. Elopidae. Ladyfishes, tenpounders. p. 1619-1620. In Carpenter, K.E. & V.H. Niem (eds.) FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. Vol. 3. Batoid fishes, chimaeras and bony fishes part 1 (Elopidae to Linophrynidae). FAO, Rome.

Smith, M.M. 1986. Elopidae. p. 155-156. In Smith, M.M. & P.C. Heemstra (eds.) Smiths' sea fishes.

Whitehead, P.J.P. 1962. The species of Elops (Pisces : Elopidae). Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (13)5(54): 321–329 figs 1–3.