Largehead Hairtail, Trichiurus lepturus Linnaeus 1758

Other Names: Australian Hairtail, Cox's Hairtail, Cutlassfish, Cutlass-fish, Hairtail, Hair-tail, Large-headed Hairtail, Northern Hairtail, Ribbonfish

Largehead Hairtail, Trichiurus lepturus. Source: Ken J. Graham / NSW Fisheries. License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

A silvery steely-blue hairtail with an iridescent sheen, often a black blotch on the front of the dorsal fin, and a very large mouth with barbed fangs. The Largehead Hairtail is very elongate, compressed and tapering to a point, with a tall long-based dorsal fin, no caudal fin, and the anal fin reduced to minute spinules usually embedded in the skin. 
Video of a Largehead Hairtail at night on the Gold Coast Seaway, southern Queensland.
Largehead Hairtail in Tokyo Sea Life Park

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2018, Trichiurus lepturus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 Jun 2024,

Largehead Hairtail, Trichiurus lepturus Linnaeus 1758

More Info


Found along and off all Australian coasts. Elsewhere the species is circumglobal in warm seas, including the Mediterranean Sea.
Usually occurs over muddy bottoms in shallow coastal waters, often entering estuaries. Adults and juveniles undertake daily vertical feeding migrations. During the day, large adults usually feed near the surface and migrate towards the bottom at night. Juveniles and small adults may form schools 100 m above the bottom during the daytime and form loose night-time feeding aggregations near the surface.


Dorsal fin III, 130-135; Anal fin 100-105. Body extremely elongate, compressed and tapering to a point. Mouth large with a dermal process at the tip of each jaw. Dorsal fin relatively high; anal fin reduced to minute spinules usually embedded in the skin or slightly breaking through; anterior margin of pectoral fin spine not serrated. Pelvic and caudal fins absent. Lateral line beginning at the upper margin of the gill cover, running oblique to behind the tip of the pectoral fins, then straight close to the ventral contour of body. 


Carnivore - adults feed on pelagic fishes, squids and crustaceans. Juveniles feed mainly on small pelagic crustaceans and fishes.


Taken by recreational and commercial fishers.


Trichiurus lepturus may represent a complex of species (Nakamura & Parin 1993; Burhanuddin et al. 2002; Gomon 2008: Hsu et al. 2009).

Species Citation

Trichiurus lepturus Linnaeus 1758, Systema Naturae, Ed. X(1): 246. Type locality: America and China.


Bray, D.J. 2018


Australian Faunal Directory

Largehead Hairtail, Trichiurus lepturus Linnaeus 1758


Allan, R. 2002. Australian Fish and How to Catch Them. Sydney : New Holland Publishers (Australia) 394 pp, (misidentified as Trichiurus savala).

Burhanuddin, A.I., Iwatsuki, Y., Yoshino, T. & Kimura, S. 2002. Small and valid species of Trichiurus brevis Wang and You, 1992 and T. russelli Dutt and Thankam, 1966, defined as the “T. russelli complex” (Perciformes: Trichiuridae). Ichthyological Research 49(3): 211-223.

Chakraborty, A., F. Aranishi, F. & Iwatsuki, Y. 2006. Genetic differences among three species of the genus Trichiurus (Perciformes: Trichiuridae) based on mitochondrial DNA analysis. Ichthyological Research 53: 93-96. PDF available

Collette, B.B., Pina Amargos, F., Smith-Vaniz, W.F., Russell, B., Marechal, J., Curtis, M., Dooley, J. & Singh-Renton, S. 2015. Trichiurus lepturus (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T190090A115307118. Downloaded on 15 January 2018.
Firawati, I., Murwantoko, M. & Setyobudi, E. 2016. Morphological and molecular characterization of hairtail (Trichiurus spp.) from the Indian Ocean, southern coast of East Java, Indonesia. Biodiversitas 18(1): 190-196

Gloerfelt-Tarp, T. & Kailola, P.J. 1984. Trawled Fishes of Southern Indonesia and Northwest Australia. Jakarta : Dir. Gen. Fish. (Indonesia), German Tech. Coop., Aust. Dev. Ass. Bur. 406 pp.

Glover, C.J.M. 1994. Family Trichiuridae. pp. 816-819, figs 721-723 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs.

Gomon, M.F. 2008. Families Sphyraenidae to Centrolophidae. pp. 774-800 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Grant, E.M. 1991. Fishes of Australia. Brisbane : EM Grant Pty Ltd 480 pp (misidentified as Trichiurus savala).

Hsu, K.-C., Shih, N.-T., Ni, I.-H. & Shao, K.-T. 2009. Speciation and population structure of three Trichiurus species based on mitochondrial DNA. Zoological Studies 48(6): 835-849. PDF available, open access

Hutchins, J.B. & Thompson, M. 1983. The Marine and Estuarine Fishes of South-western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 103 pp. 345 figs.

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3)

Larson, H.K. & Williams, R.S. 1997. Darwin Harbour fishes: a survey and annotated checklist. pp. 339-380 in Hanley, H.R., Caswell, G., Megirian, D. & Larson, H.K. (eds). The Marine Flora and Fauna of Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory, Australia. Proceedings of the Sixth International Marine Biology Workshop. Darwin : Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory 466 pp.

Larson, H.K., Williams, R.S. & Hammer, M.P. 2013. An annotated checklist of the fishes of the Northern Territory, Australia. Zootaxa 3696(1): 1-293.

Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema Naturae per Regna tria Naturae, secundem Classes, Ordines, Genera, Species, cum Characteribus, Differentis, Synonymis, Locis. Tom.1 Editio decima, reformata. Holmiae : Laurentii Salvii 824 pp.

Marshall, T.C. 1964. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coastal Waters of Queensland. Sydney : Angus & Robertson 566 pp. 136 pls.

Nakamura, I. & Parin, N.V. 1993. FAO Species Catalogue. Snake mackerels and cutlassfishes of the world (families Gempylidae and Trichiuridae). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of the Snake Mackerels, Snoeks, Escolars, Gemfishes, Sackfishes, Domine, Oilfish, Cutlassfishes, Scabbardfishes, Hairtails, and Frostfishes known to date. Fisheries Synopsis No. 125, Vol. 15. Rome : FAO 136 pp. 200 figs.

Nakamura, I. & Parin, N.V. 2001. Gempylidae, Trichiuridae. pp. 3698-3720 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 6 pp. 3381-4218.

Ramsay, E.P. & Ogilby, J.D. 1887. Descriptions of new Australian fishes. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 2 2(3): 561-564. (described as a new species, Trichiurus coxii)

Russell, B.C. & Houston, W. 1989. Offshore fishes of the Arafura Sea. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 6(1): 69-84.

Sainsbury, K.J., Kailola, P.J. & Leyland, G.G. 1985. Continental Shelf Fishes of Northern and North-Western Australia. Canberra : Fisheries Information Service 375 pp. figs & pls.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37440004

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-589 m

Fishing:Commercial, recreational fish

Habitat:Estuaries, coastal marine, offshore

Max Size:235 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map