The Australian Handfish was scientifically described in 2007. Two of the authors, Peter Last and Dan Gledhill, both from CSIRO Marine Lab in Hobart, are OzFishNet members.
The Australian Handfish has a small mouth and gill openings that are restricted to a tubular pore behind the pectoral fins. It has prominent hand-like pectoral fins and jugular pelvic fins.
The dorsal fin is divided into three parts; an illicium on the snout, a tall sail-like spinous dorsal fin on top of the head, and a long-based soft-rayed dorsal fin along the back.
The Australian Handfish is pale with yellow to brown dashes. Most fins are clear with black spots.
In addition to colouration differences, the Australian Handfish differs from the Spotted Handfish, Brachionichthys hirsutus, by having a larger eye, longer illicium, smaller esca and differences in fin lengths and ray counts.
The species is usually seen in the catches of trawls taken at depths between 18 m and 210 m.
It is endemic to Australia, occurring in marine waters from southern New South Wales to the Great Australian Bight, Western Australia.
The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.
- Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. Pp. 437. (as Brachionichthys sp)
- Last, P.R. in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. Pp. 992.
- Last, P.R., Gledhill, D.C. & B.H. Holmes. 2007. A new handfish, Brachionichthys australis sp. nov. (Lophiiformes: Brachionichthyidae), with a redescription of the critically endangered spotted handfish, B. hirsutus (Lacepède). Zootaxa. 1666: 53-68.