Animal Species:Scalloped Ribbonfish, Zu cristatus (Bonelli, 1820)

As its name implies, the Scalloped Ribbonfish has a long slender body. Juveniles have a 'scalloped' ventral body margin.  Adults are reported to swim vertically in open waters.

Standard Common Name

Scalloped Ribbonfish


Adult Scalloped Ribbonfish can be recognised by the ribbon-like body, reddish dorsal fin, black tail, and other fin characteristics.

Juveniles under 70 cm in length have a silvery body with dark blotches, a scalloped belly margin and bulb-like structures on the long dorsal and pelvic fins.

The family Trachipteridae contains about ten species in three genera: Trachipterus, Desmodema and Zu. The family is classified in the order Lampridiformes. One of the distinctive characters of this order is the structure of the upper jaw and surrounding tissues which enables the jaws to be greatly protruded during feeding.

Size range

The species grows to 1 m in length.


It occurs worldwide in tropical and temperate oceans. In Australia it is known from off the coasts of New South Wales and Tasmania.

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

Zu cristatus

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Scalloped Ribbonfish specimens in the Australian Museums.

What does this mean?


The Scalloped Ribbonfish is rarely encountered. In open water it is reported to swim vertically, head up and tail down.

Feeding and Diet

Ribbonfishes are reported to eat fishes, squid and crustaceans.



What does this mean?


  1. Anon. 1999. Rare fish find for Yamba. Lower Clarence Review. Friday, August 27. p.3.
  2. Heemstra, P.C. & S.X. Kannemeyer, 1984. The families Trachipteridae and Radiicephalidae (Piscies, Lampriformes) and a new species of Zu from South Africa. Annals of the South African Museum. 94(2):13-39.
  3. Heemstra, P.C. & S.X. Kannemeyer. 1986. Trachipteridae. in Smith, M.M. & P.C. Heemstra. (eds.) 1986. Smiths' Sea Fishes. Macmillan South Africa, Johannesburg. i-xx + 1-1047, Pls. 1-144.
  4. Olney, J. 1999. Trachipteridae. in Carpenter, K.E. & V.H. Niem (Eds). FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes. The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 3. Batoid fishes, chimaeras and bony fishes part 1 (Elopidae to Linophrynidae). FAO, Rome. Pp. iii-vi, 1398-2068.
  5. Paxton, J.R., D.F. Hoese, G.R. Allen & J.E. Hanley. 1989. Zoological Catalogue of Australia Vol.7 Pisces Petromyzontidae to Carangidae. Canberra: Australian Biological Resources Survey. Pp. i-xii, 1-665.
  6. Scott, E.O.G., 1983. Observations on some Tasmanian Fishes: Part XXIX. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania. 117: 167-202.
  7. Wheeler, A. 1975. Fishes of the World. An Illustrated Dictionary. Ferndale Editions. Pp.366.

Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
Last Updated:

Tags Scalloped Ribbonfish, Zu cristatus, fishes, ribbon-like body, reddish dorsal fin, black tail, silver, blotches/mottled, bulb-like structures, 30 cm - 1 m, tropical water, temperate water, marine, swims vertically, pelagic,