Shovelnose Catfish, Neoarius paucus (Kailola 2000)

Shovelnose Catfish, Neoarius paucus. Source: Dave Wilson. License: All rights reserved

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Martin F. Gomon, Neoarius paucus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 28 Mar 2020,

Shovelnose Catfish, Neoarius paucus (Kailola 2000)

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Known only from the Roper River System, Northern Territory, to river systems of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Cape York, Queensland, including the Flinders and Gilbert River systems.


D I, 7; A 16-19; P I, 9-11; C 7+8  

Body robust, compressed, tapering posteriorly; head profile rectangular and narrow; jaw symphyses inclined slightly upwards; mouth subterminal, broad; lips rubbery, thin at front of jaws and thick at corners; snout truncate in profile; head oblong; predorsal profile straight; nostrils ovate, placed well forward; eye rounded to almost oblong, 8.9-15.3% HL; dorsolateral; head shield granular, usually concealed by skin and mucus; gill openings broad; gill rakers on first arch 10-11; gill rakers on last arch 11-14; free vertebrae 47-50; palatal teeth villiform, in transverse band of 4 oblong patches (sometimes fused), inner patches slightly smaller than outer; barbels thin and short, rarely reaching beyond pectoral fin base and less than 25% SL. Scales are absent, covered in smooth skin. Fin spines sharp, thick, compressed; dorsal fin high; pectoral fin reaching to below posterior dorsal rays; adipose fin oblong and high, opposite middle of anal fin; anal fin moderately elevated anteriorly, with concave outer margin; caudal fin forked, lobes long, broad basally, slender distally; ventral fin moderately broad in females with thick pads on 5th and 6th inner rays; ventral fin in males and juveniles narrow.


Predominantly predatory but becoming a facultative omnivore during the dry season; feed on fish (often bony bream); aquatic and terrestrial insects and their larvae; beetles and crustaceans.


Large eggs are incubated in the mouth of the male for 5-6 weeks.

Similar Species

Neoarius paucus differs from N. midgleyi in gill raker numbers (10-11 on first arch in N. paucus, versus 15-17 on first arch in N. midgleyi) and eye size (8.9-15.3% HL versus 12.9-21.8% HL in N. midgleyi). N. midgleyi is distributed in the west (the Victoria, Katherine, Daly, Ord, remaining Kimberley and northern river systems including the Alligator); N. paucus is distributed in the east (the Roper and Flinders River systems and all other rivers draining into the Gulf of Carpentaria).


Species name from the Latin paucus meaning few or less. Refers to this species having fewer gill rakers and a smaller eye than N. midgleyi.

Species Citation

Arius paucus Kailola P.J. (2000) Six new species of fork-tailed catfishes (Pisces, Teleostei, Ariidae) from Australia and New Guinea. The Beagle. Rec. Mus. Art. Gall. N. Terr. 16: 127-144 Flinders River, near Maxwellton, QLD [20°47’S, 142°43’E]


Martin F. Gomon

Shovelnose Catfish, Neoarius paucus (Kailola 2000)


Hoese et al Catalogue

Kailola P.J. (2000) Six new species of fork-tailed catfishes (Pisces, Teleostei, Ariidae) from Australia and New Guinea. The Beagle. Rec. Mus. Art. Gall. N. Terr. 16: 127-144

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37188015

Danger:Venomous fin spines

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