Ghost Flatheads (family Hoplichthyidae)

Ghost flatheads (also known as Deep Sea Flatheads, Spiny Flatheads and Spook Flatheads) are flattened, small to medium sized marine fishes of the family Hoplichthyidae.

Head of a Lemon Ghost Flathead

Head of a Lemon Ghost Flathead
Photographer: Cate Lowe © Australian Museum

Ghost flatheads are flattened, small to medium sized marine fishes of the family Hoplichthyidae.

They are elongate, mostly scaleless and have a row of spiny scutes along the lateral line covering much of back and upper half of sides. The head is very wide and flat, much wider than deep, with variously developed ridges and spines. The eyes are on the dorsal surface, the snout is broad and greatly flattened and the mouth is large usually with tiny teeth.

Most species are yellow, pinkish or brown above and on the sides, with varying spots and mottling, fading to pink, white or silver below.

Ghost flatheads occur on the continental shelf and slope from 60 m to 1500 m. Larvae and juveniles are collected in shallower water than adults. The eyes of the larvae are lateral, moving dorsally with growth. They feed on a range of crustacea and fishes.

They are not generally exploited commercially because despite the flesh being supposedly of good quality, even the largest fish have very little meat.

McGrouther, M.A. 1999. Hoplichthyidae. Ghost flatheads (spiny flatheads). FAO species identification guide for Fishery purposes. The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. Vol. 4. FAO. 2422-2524, 4 figs.

Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
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Tags Fishes, Ichthyology, Spiny Flatheads, Hoplichthyidae, Haswell's spiny flathead, Ogilby's spiny flathead, Hoplichthys citrinus, Ghost Flatheads,