Animal Species:Dusky Flathead, Platycephalus fuscus Cuvier, 1829

The Dusky Flathead is the largest Australian flathead species. It can be recognised by patterns on the pectoral and caudal fins.

Standard Common Name

Dusky Flathead

Alternative Name/s

Black Flathead, Dusky, Estuary Flathead, Flattie, Frog, Lizard, Mud Flathead, River Flathead


Many Australian flatheads can be recognised by the patterns on their pectoral and caudal fins. The pectoral fins of the Dusky Flathead have rows of fine brown spots. The tail is blueish grey below, spotted above and has a dark spot near the margin. The body varies from dark brown to sandy with spots.

Size range

The Dusky Flathead is the largest Australian flathead species, reaching 1.2 m and a weight of at least 15 kg. It is often caught by anglers in New South Wales.


This species occurs from southern Queensland to Victoria.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums.  Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

Platycephalus fuscus

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Dusky Flathead specimens in the Australian Museums.

What does this mean?


It lives in a range of habitats from sheltered rocky reefs to sandy or muddy areas at depths of less than 1 m to 25 m.

Feeding and Diet

Like all flatheads, the Dusky Flathead is a predator.  Flatheads feed on fishes, crustaceans and sand-dwelling squid (Kuiter, 2000).

Life cycle

The following quotes are from Gray & Barnes, 2008.

"Estimated size at maturity for female Dusky Flathead is 56.75 cm."

"Female Dusky Flathead reach sexual maturity later and at a larger size than males. On average, males take 1.2 years to reach the L50*, females however, take more than 4 years to reach the estimated L50 although some females mature at approximately 2 years of age."

*L50 = "Length at which 50 percent of the population is mature."

Mating and reproduction

"Estimates of fecundity for Dusky Flathead range from 294,000 to 3,948,000 eggs." (Gray & Barnes, 2008)



What does this mean?


  1. Edgar, G.J. 1997. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Reed Books. Pp. 544.
  2. Gray, C.A & L.M. Barnes. 2008. Reproduction and growth of dusky flathead (Platycephalus fuscus) in NSW estuaries. NSW Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries Final Report Series. No. 101. ISSN 1449-9967, Pp 26.
  3. Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. Pp. 180.
  4. Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-Eastern Australia. Crawford House Press. Pp. 437.
  5. Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. Pp. 437.

Mark McGrouther , Senior Fellow
Last Updated:

Tags Fishes, Ichthyology, Dusky Flathead, Platycephalus fuscus, Platycephalidae, largest flathead, complex pattern, Black Flathead, Dusky, Estuary Flathead, Flattie, Frog, Lizard, Mud Flathead, River Flathead, dots/spots, blueish grey, dark brown, sheltered rocky reef, sandy bottom, muddy bottom, > 1m, marine,