Tiger Flathead, Platycephalus richardsoni Castelnau 1872

Other Names: Deepsea Flathead, Deep-sea Flathead, Flathead, King Flathead, Spiky Flathead, Teethies, Toothy Flathead, Trawl Flathead

Tiger Flathead, Platycephalus richardsoni. Source: Rudie Kuiter / Aquatic Photographics. License: All rights reserved


A greyish-brown flathead with a series of dark blotches along the side, and many small orange to reddish-orange spots covering the body. The fins are spotted, and the caudal fin is mostly dusky, especially the outer middle part, with a few small faint dusky blotches dorsally.

The head is large and flattened, with low, mostly spineless ridges; mouth large with very large canine teeth in jaws; angle of gill cover with two strong, spines of similar size.

Cite this page as:
Australian National Fish Collection, CSIRO & Bray, D.J. 2021, Platycephalus richardsoni in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 Jul 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3363

Tiger Flathead, Platycephalus richardsoni Castelnau 1872

More Info


Endemic to continental shelf and slope of south-eastern Australia, from off the Clarence River, northern New South Wales, to the Great Australian Bight south of Eucla, Western Australia, including Bass Strait and Tasmania. Found on sandy and silty bottoms at depths of 20-430 m.


Dorsal fin VIII-IX, 14; Anal fin 14 (rarely 13); Caudal fin 15; Pectoral fin 19-20 (rarely 17, 18 and 21); Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line scales (pored) 64-74.

Body elongate, slightly depressed. Head large (length 31-34% SL), depressed, with several low, mostly spineless ridges; eyes large (21-25% HL) with small iris lappet; mouth large with greatly enlarged canines on jaws, palatines and on vomer; two strong, similar-sized preopercular spines at angle of preopercle; gill rakers on lower limb of first arch long and slender dorsally, shorter ventrally, 2 or 3 on lower limb, 10-12 on upper limb.

Scales small, finely ctenoid, covering body and most of head behind eyes; lateral line scales slightly larger than adjacent scales on side, ~90 oblique rows of scales above lateral line, anteriormost 1-3 scales with small spine or ridge.

First dorsal fin spinous with short base, first spine very short, detached, following spines much longer. Second dorsal fin with moderately long base, anterior rays longest, nearly as long as fourth spine of first dorsal fin. Anal fin similar in shape, opposite and slightly longer-based than second dorsal fin. Caudal fin truncate. Pectoral fins moderately small. Pelvic fins long, broad, based below centre of pectoral fins. Swim bladder present.


Maximum length at least 70 cm TL; maximum weight at least 3 kg. Tiger flathead commonly grow to a length of 35-55 cm, and a weight of 0.5-1.3 kg.


Grey-brown dorsally with numerous small reddish orange spots, often several large greyish blotches along midline of sides; whitish ventrally. Fins with spots of moderate size; caudal fin mostly dusky, especially toward centre of hind margin, pale basally, with a few small faint dusky blotches dorsally.


Carnivore. The Tiger Flathead is an ambush predator and feeds mostly on fishes (piscivorous), but also on large benthic crustaceans. Unlike many other flathead species, tiger flathead have a swim bladder allowing them to feed in midwater.


An extremely important commercial species within its range, taken by trawl and Danish seine; most abundant flathead caught in Victorian waters in the South East Fishery. Also a significant recreational species, taken by hook and line from inshore areas (e.g. Port Phillip Bay), primarily in the summer months.

Tiger flathead are sold whole (gutted and gilled) and as fillets. Although available throughout the year, they are more common in markets from July to September in New South Wales and Victoria.


The species is named for Scottish ichthyologist John Richardson, who described many Australian fishes.

Species Citation

Platycephalus richardsoni Castelnau, 1872, Proc. Zool. Acclim. Soc. Vict. 1: 8, Melbourne Market, Victoria.


Australian National Fish Collection, CSIRO & Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

Tiger Flathead, Platycephalus richardsoni Castelnau 1872


Castelnau, F.L. de 1872. Contribution to the ichthyology of Australia. 1. The Melbourne fish market. Proceedings of the Zoological and Acclimatisation Society of Victoria 1: 29-242 1 pl. (described as Platycephalus richardsoni, and Neoplatycephalus grandis) See ref at BHL

Gomon, M.F. 2008. Family Platycephalidae. pp. 515-521 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp. 

Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp. (as Neoplatycephalus richardsoni)

Imamura, H. 2006. Rediagnosis of the marbled flathead, Platycephalus marmoratus (Actinopterygii: Teleostei: Platycephalidae), with comments on the composition of the type series. Species Diversity 11: 295-306.

Imamura, H. 2015. Taxonomic revision of the flathead fish genus Platycephalus Bloch, 1785 (Teleostei: Platycephalidae) from Australia, with description of a new species. Zootaxa 3904(2): 151–207

Kailola, P.J., Williams, M.J., Stewart, P.C., Reichelt, R.E., McNee, A. & Grieve, C. 1993. Australian Fisheries Resources. Canberra : Bureau of Resource Sciences and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation 422 pp. (as Neoplatycephalus richardsoni)

Keenan, C.P. 1991. Phylogeny of Australian species of flatheads (Teleostei, Platycephalidae) as determined by allozyme electrophoresis. Journal of Fish Biology 39(Supplement A): 237-249.

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 1994. Family Platycephalidae. pp. 514-523 figs 458-465 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. (as Neoplatycephalus richardsoni)

Kuiter, R.H. & Kuiter, S.L. 2018. Fish watchers guide to coastal sea-fishes of south-eastern Australia. Seaford, Victoria : Aquatic Photographics, 371 pp.

Morrongiello, J.R. & Thresher, R.E. 2015. A statistical framework to explore ontogenetic growth variation among individuals and populations: a marine fish example. Ecological Monographs 85: 93–115. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/13-2355.1

Ogilby, J.D. 1885. Descriptions of new fishes from Port Jackson. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 10(2): 225-230 (described as Platycephalus macrodon)

Tilzey, R.D.J. 1994. The South East Fishery. Bureau of Resource Sciences, Canberra. 360 pp.

Whitley, G.P. 1931. Studies in Ichthyology No. 5. Records of the Australian Museum 18(4): 138-160 figs 1-2 pls 20-21 (as Neoplatycephalus macrodon)

Whitley, G.P. 1952. Some noteworthy fishes from eastern Australia. Proceedings of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales 1950–51: 27-32 figs 1-5

Yearsley, G.K., Last, P.R. & Ward, R.D. 2001. Australian Seafood Handbook: an identification guide to domestic species. FRDC / CSIRO Marine Research, 469 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37296001

Danger:Venomous spines

Depth:20-430 m

Fishing:Commercial & recreational fish

Habitat:Sandy & silty bottoms

Max Size:70 cmTL; 3 kg


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