Animal Species:Southern Ribbonfish, Trachipterus jacksonensis (Ramsay, 1881)

The Southern Ribbonfish is a very long, compressed fish that has a greatly protrusible mouth.

Southern Ribbonfish on the beach

Southern Ribbonfish on the beach
Photographer: Col Waters and Terry White © Col Waters and Terry White

Standard Common Name

Southern Ribbonfish


The Southern Ribbonfish has a highly compressed body that tapers posteriorly. It has very large eyes and a large protrusible mouth. The dorsal fin extends nearly the full length of the fish.

This species lacks scales but has dermal tubercles. The tubercles on the ventral margin are enlarged. Those along each side of the dorsal fin pterigiophores are arranged in rows (see bottom image).

The Southern Ribbonfish is silvery in colour but parts of the head may be black.

A single species of Trachipterus is currently recognised from Australian waters. The names T. jacksonensis and T. arawatae have been used in different publications for Australian specimens. Taxonomic work is required to clarify this issue.

Size range

The species grows to at least 2 m in length.


The Southern Ribbonfish occurs in marine waters of South Africa and Australia.

In Australia it is known from southern Queensland and around the south-east of the country to eastern South 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.

Trachipterus jacksonensis

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Southern Ribbonfish specimens in the Australian Museums.

What does this mean?


The species is usually caught in trawls from deep water but is also occasionally seen washed ashore after storms or even on the surface.

Feeding and Diet

Dietary items reported for fishes in the genus include bony fishes, cephalopods and planktonic crustaceans. They may be preyed upon by Lancetfishes.



What does this mean?


  1. Glover, C.J.M. 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.
  2. Gomon, M.F., Bray, D. & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). 2008. The Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Reed New Holland. Pp. 928.
  3. 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.
  4. Heemstra, P.C. & S.X. Kannemeyer. 1984. The Families Trachipteridae and Radiicephalidae (Pisces, Lampriformes) and a new species of Zu from South Africa. Annals of the South African Museum. 94(2): 13-39.

Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
Last Updated:

Tags fishes, ichthyology, Southern Ribbonfish, Trachipterus jackoniensis, Trachipteridae, long and skinny, compressed body, protrusible mouth, lacks scales, dermal tubercles, > 1m, marine, deepsea,