Common name: Black Warriors, Slickheads, Smooth Heads


Bathylaconids are rare deepwater fishes that were previously included in the Alepocephalidae (Slickheads).

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Dianne J. Bray, Black Warriors, BATHYLACONIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 27 May 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

A small family with 2 genera and 4 species. A single species is known from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Circumglobal in tropical and temperate latitudes on the continental slope; meso- and bathypelagic to 4500 m, usually below 1000 m.

Family Description

Moderately elongate fishes, head moderate to large, mouth very large, eye large with prominent rostral aphakic aperture and comma-shaped lid fold in front of eye; premaxilla minute, maxilla extending well beyond eyes, both with thin, pointed teeth; lower jaw with normal conical teeth in one genus, modified into low semicircular plates in other giving toothless appearance; upper branchiostegal rays broad, forming part of gill cover, tongue present; upper elements of posterior 2 gill arches form an expanded pouch (crumenal organ) on each side. Single dorsal fin originating on posterior half of body slightly in advance of anal fin, pelvic fins below anterior part of dorsal fin, pectoral fins small, low on body, adipose fin absent. Head naked with large lateral line pores, lateral line running along body midline, body scales large, cycoid. No photophores, swimbladder absent. Body generally black or dark brown in colour, head darker than body.

Family Size

To over 40 cm SL.

Family Feeding

Unknown, although some species are thought to be fast-swimming predators.

Family Reproduction

Little is known of reproduction. Bathylaconids are oviparous with pelagic eggs and larvae. The eggs are large, and developing eggs in gonadshave been found to measure up to 2.7 mm; Larval development is direct.

Family Commercial

Bathlaconids are of no commercial importance, but are occasionally taken as bycatch in commercial fisheries.

Family Remarks

Free swimming, most species live close to the bottom.


Dianne J. Bray


Ambrose, D.A. 1984. Alepocephalidae: slickheads, pp 224-233. In H.G. Moser (ed.) The early stages of fishes in the California Current region. California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) Atlas No. 33. 1505 pp.

Iwamoto, T., J.E. McCosker & O. Barton. 1976. Alepocephalid fishes of the genera Herwigia and Bathylaco, with the first Pacific record of H. kreffti. Jpn. J. Ichthyol. 23(1): 55-59.

Johnson, G.D. & C. Patterson. Ch. 12: Relationships of lower euteleostean fishes, pp. 251-332, In Stiassny, M.L.J., Parenti, L.R., & Johnson, G.D. (eds) 1996. Interrelationships of Fishes. 251-332. San Diego: Academic Press, 496 pp.

Nielsen, J.G. & V. Larsen. 1968. Synopsis of the Bathylaconidae (Pisces, Isospondyli) with a new eastern Pacific species. Galathea Rept. 9: 221-238, pls. 13-15.

Sazonov, Y.I. & D.F. Markle. 1999.  Family Alepocephalidae. 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.

Sazonov, Y.I. & A. Williams. 2001. A review of the alepocephalid fishes (Argentiniformes, Alepocephalidae) from the continental slope of Australia. J. Ichthyol. 41(Suppl. 1): S1-S36.