Sackfish, Neoepinnula orientalis (Gilchrist & von Bonde 1924)

A Sackfish, Neoepinnula orientalis. Source: Thomas Gloerfelt-Tarp / JETINDOFISH Survey. License: All rights reserved


One of the smallest gempylids, named for it's bag-like body. The Sackfish is greenish-brown to dark brown with a blackish first dorsal fin, the membrane between the first four dorsal-fin spines darker than the remainder, and a black mouth and gill cavities.

Cite this page as:
Schultz, S., Neoepinnula orientalis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 17 Jun 2024,

Sackfish, Neoepinnula orientalis (Gilchrist & von Bonde 1924)

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In Australian waters recorded from SW of Shark Bay, WA, to the Arafura Sea, NT. Found elsewhere in the tropical Indo-west Pacific - benthopelagic on the continental slope.


Meristic features: Dorsal fin XVI, 0, I, 17-20; Anal fin III, 17-19; Pectoral fin 13-15.

Body not elongate, moderately deep;, depth 3.9-4.2 times in standard length. Head length 3.1-3.5 times into standard length. Lower jaw protruding. Upper jaw with 3 pairs of rigid teeth, and 0-3 pairs of depressible fang-like teeth; lower jaw with a single pair of fang-like teeth; vomer with a pair of small teeth. 

Two lateral lines, each originating above the gill cover; one running along dorsal profile of body, the second descending sharply behind the pectoral fin base to the ventral profile; both lateral lines terminating at the caudal peduncle. Body scales cycloid; no modified scales along mid-ventral line of trunk; no keels or finlets on caudal peduncle.

Origin of first dorsal fin above upper end of gill opening; pelvic fin well developed with one spine and five soft rays.


To 30 cm.


Body greenish-brown to dark brown. First dorsal fin blackish, membrane between first 4 dorsal spines darker than remainder. Buccal and branchial cavities black.


Prey items include fishes, crustaceans and cephalopods.


Mature at 15 cm (SL).


From the Latin, orientalis meaning oriental, a reference to its distribution.

Species Citation

Epinnula orientalis Gilchrist & von Bonde 1924, Rept Fish. Mar. Biol. Surv, Sth Africa 3(7)(1922): 15, Pl. 4 (fig. 1). Type locality: South Africa, ‘Pickle' stations 291 and 292, depths 157 and 275 fathoms.


Schultz, S.

Sackfish, Neoepinnula orientalis (Gilchrist & von Bonde 1924)


Gilchrist, J.D.F. & von Bonde, C. 1924. Special report No. 7. Deep-sea fishes procured by the S.S. Pickle (part 2). Report. Fisheries & Marine Biological Survey, Union of South Africa 3: 1-24 pls 1-6

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.

Matsubara, K. & Iwai, T. 1952. Studies on some Japanese fishes of the family Gempylidae. Pacific Science 6(3): 193-212 figs 1-12

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.

Nakayama, N., Kimura, Y. & Endo, H. 2014. Neoepinnula minetomai, a new species of sackfish from off Kuchierabu-jima Island, southern Japan (Actinopterygii: Gempylidae). Ichthyological Research DOI 10.1007/s10228-014-0446-3

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.

Williams, A., Last, P.R., Gomon, M.F. & Paxton, J.R. 1996. Species composition and checklist of the demersal ichthyofauna of the continental slope off Western Australia (20–35º). Records of the Western Australian Museum 18: 135-155.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37439004

Depth:200-570 m


Max Size:30 cm SL

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