Deepsea Discoveries

One of the strengths of the Australian Museum's Ichthyology collection is its deepsea fishes.

A female Elsman's Whipnose

Stuart Humphries © Australian Museum

Despite the Museum's extensive holdings of deepsea fauna, the collection barely scratches the surface of what actually exists in the deep. There is still an enormous amount to be learned about the deepsea because very little trawling in abyssal waters and in deep midwaters has been done in Australia. There are undoubtedly many new species yet to be discovered.

Elsman's Whipnose Anglerfish, Gigantactis elsmani, lives in the deep waters of most oceans. However, It is rarely seen and very few specimens exist in research collections.

In April 1989, Australian Museum staff aboard HMAS Cook collected a 31 cm female from the Tasman Sea off the coast of Sydney. It is the only Australian specimen of Elsman's Whipnose Anglerfish in a museum collection.

Female Elsman's Whipnose Anglerfish can be recognised by the length and structure of the long whip-like lure attached to the tip of the snout. They have needle-like teeth arranged in approximately five rows.

The genus Gigantactis contains 21 species, all of which show extreme sexual dimorphism (differences between males and females). The largest females grow to 40 cm in length, but the largest males grow to just 2.2 cm.

The only other species of Whipnose Anglerfish recorded from Australian waters is Paxton's Whipnose Anglerfish, Gigantactis paxtoni, which was named after Australian Museum Research Fellow, Dr John Paxton.


Dr John Paxton , Senior Fellow
Last Updated: