Common name: Deepwater Flatheads
Deepwater flatheads are small bottom-dwelling fishes with a large, flattened head with spiny ridges, and a long, slender body.

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Cite this page as:
CSIRO, Deepwater Flatheads, BEMBRIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Jul 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

The Bembridae contains four genera and 9 species, of which 3 occur in Australia.

Family Distribution

Demersal on the continental shelf and upper slope from about 80-580 m. Occurs widely in the Indo-west Pacific, from the western Indian Ocean to Japan and southward through Indonesia to Australia.

Family Description

Small fishes with large, depressed head and long, slender, subcylindrical body bearing mostly ctenoid scales, some cycloid scales ventrally; pelvic fins below pectoral base.

Lower jaw slightly subterminal when mouth closed. Iris lappet absent; ocular and interopercular flaps absent; posttemporal with a strong spine posteriorly, and a smaller spine laterally; preorbital spine absent; preocular spine sharp; a strong postocular spine; opercle with two moderate spines, each with a distinct ridge lacking serrations; distinct spine posteroventrally on subopercle; eye moderately large, about 27% of head length.

Teeth on jaws and palatines small, canine, distributed in bands; teeth on vomer in a V-shape patch. Number of oblique scale rows slanting downward and backward above lateral-line scales roughly equal to number of lateral line scales.

Origin of first dorsal fin behind posterior margin of opercle; first spine of first dorsal fin broadly attached to second spine; second dorsal fin separated from first by narrow interspace; second dorsal fin bearing a spine anteriorly; anal fin lacking spines; pelvic fin not reaching beyond cloaca; rear margin of caudal fin slightly concave.

Family Size

Reaching about 30 cm TL.

Family Feeding


Family Reproduction

Little is known of the biology, reproduction or early life history.

Family Commercial

May be taken incidentally in trawl fisheries, and possibly utilised commercially.

Family Conservation

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Not Evaluated



Family Resources

CAAB Codes for Australian Aquatic Biota

Catalog of Fishes


Eschmeyer, W.N. (2008) The Catalogue of Fishes on-line. (California Academy of Sciences: San Francisco) Available from: (12 June, 2008).

Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & Allen, G.R. (2006) Fishes. In: P.L. Beesley & A. Wells (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia Volume 35. Parts 1-3. Australian Biological Resources Study and CSIRO Publishing, 2248 pp.

Imamura, H. (1996) Phylogeny of the family Platycephalidae and related taxa (Pisces: Scorpaeniformes). Species Diversity 1(2): 123-233.

Imamura, H. & Knapp, L. W. (1998) Review of the genus Bembras Cuvier, 1829 (Scorpaeniformes: Bembridae) with description of three new species collected from Australia and Indonesia. Ichth. Res. 45(2): 165-178.