Animal Species:Largehead Hairtail, Trichiurus lepturus Linnaeus, 1758
Fourteen species of cutlassfishes and hairtails, in seven genera are known from Australian waters. These images show a hairtail, most likely a Largehead Hairtail photographed on the central New South Wales coast.
Standard Common Name
Australian Hairtail, Cox's Hairtail, Cutlass-fish, Hairtail, Northern Hairtail, Ribbonfish
The Largehead Hairtail has a elongate, compressed body that tapers to a pointed tip. There is no caudal fin. It has a large mouth with barbed fangs on the jaws. There are over 130 dorsal fin elements. In life, the fish is steel blue to silver coloured, which makes it very difficult to photograph underwater due to reflection from the camera flash.
The species grows to about 1.2 m in length.
The Largehead Hairtail has a circumglobal distribution. It is known from all states of Australia.
The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.
Distribution by collection data
The species occurs in tropical and temperate continental shelf and slope waters from inshore to a depth of at least 350 m
Feeding and Diet
Young fish feed primarily on crustaceans but older fish are piscivorous, preying on a range of pelagic fish species.
The species is a good eating fish that is sometimes sold at the Sydney Fish Market.
- 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.
- Nakamura I. & N.V. Parin. 1993. 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. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125 (15). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome. 136 Pp.
Mark McGrouther , Senior Fellow