Southern Spineback, Notacanthus sexspinis Richardson 1846

Other Names: Spineback, Spine-back, Spiny Eel, Spiny-back Eel

Southern Spineback, Notacanthus sexspinis. Source: Australian National Fish Collection, CSIRO. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial

A pale brown deep-sea spiny eel, paler below, with the inside of the mouth black, the dorsal fin comprised of six to eight short unconnected spines, and a long-based anal fin extending to the tip of the tail.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Notacanthus sexspinis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 04 Feb 2023,

Southern Spineback, Notacanthus sexspinis Richardson 1846

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Occurs off the southern half of Australia, from off Newcastle, New South Wales, to off Bunbury, Western Australia. Elsewhere the species is circumglobal in temperate southern hemisphere waters


Dorsal fin VI-VIII, 1; Anal fin X-XV, 150-160; Pectoral fin 12-14; Pelvic fin I-II, 6-8.
Body depth 10-12% TL; head length 13-16% TL; teeth on palatines and lower jaw in a single complete row, occasionally a second row anteriorly on the jaw.


Reportedly feeds on bottom-dwelling invertebrates such as sea anemones, sea stars, and polychaete worms.


Although spinebacks have a leptocephalus larval stage, they differ noticeably from true eels in having the dorsal fin reduced to a series of short, sharp spines unconnected along the back, the lateral-line closer to the dorsal than the ventral profile of the body, a blunt snout projecting well beyond the mouth, and pelvic fins united and located closer to the anus that the head.


Gomon, M.F. in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. Pp. 992.Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. parts 1-3, pages 1-2178.

Species Citation

Notacanthus sexspinis Richardson 1846, Ichthyol. voy. H. M. S. Erebus & Terror 2(2): 54, Pl. 32 (figs. 4-11). Type locality: King George Sound, Western Australia.


Dianne J. Bray


Australian Faunal Directory

Southern Spineback, Notacanthus sexspinis Richardson 1846


Blaber, S.J.M. & Bulman, C.M. 1987. Diets of fishes of the upper continental slope of eastern Tasmania: content, calorific values, dietary overlap and trophic relationships. Marine Biology 95: 345-356.

Macpherson, E. & Roel, B.A. 1987. Trophic relationships in the demersal fish community off Namibia. S. Afr. J. Mar. Sci. 5: 585-596.

May, J.L. & Maxwell, J.G.H. 1986. Trawl fish from temperate waters of Australia. CSIRO Division of Fisheries Research, Tasmania. 492 pp.

McDowell, S.B. 1973. Order Heteromi (Notacanthiformes). In: Fishes of the Western North Atlantic. Memoirs of the Sears Foundation of Marine Research 1(6): 1-228.

Pakhorukov, N.P. 2001. Distribution and behavior of bottom and near-bottom fishes in the Rio Grande Submarine Rise (Atlantic Ocean). Journal of Ichthyology 41(4): 300-307.

Richardson, J. 1846. Ichthyology. 53-74 pls 31-41, 43-44 & 53 (part) in Richardson, J. & Gray, J.E. (eds). The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Erebus and Terror under the Command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross, R.N., F.R.S., during the years 1839–43. London : E.W. Janson Vol. 2 139 pp.

Smith, D.G. 1999. Families Halosauridae, Notacanthidae, Lipogenyidae, Anguillidae, Moringuidae, Chlopsidae, Myrocongridae. pp. 1625-1642 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 3 pp. 1397-2068.

Smith, D.G. 2008. Family Notacanthidae - Spinebacks, p. 185-186, in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37083001

Biology:Leptocephalus larvae

Depth:200-1360 m


Max Size:60 cm TL

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