Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory




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CAAB: 37209000



Compiler and date details

12 May 2015 - Dianne J. Bray, John R. Paxton, Jennifer E. Gates & Douglass F. Hoese

21 June 2011 - Dianne J. Bray

2006 - John R. Paxton, Jennifer E. Gates & Douglass F. Hoese


The Brachionichthyidae, handfishes, are endemic to southern and south-eastern Australia. The family comprises 5 genera and 14 species, and all but three species occur in Tasmanian waters.

Handfishes are small and sedentary, and inhabit both hard and soft substrates from nearshore waters to about 280 m (possibly to 500 m) (Last et al. 2009). These anglerfish relatives have an illicium with an esca on the snout, followed by a short fin arising above the eye and formed from the united second and third dorsal-fin spines. The soft dorsal fin arises above the pectoral-fin base in most species, and both the pectoral and pelvic fins are used when handfishes crawl along the bottom. Some species are brightly coloured. Recorded food items include crustaceans and polychaetes. Handfishes reach a maximum length of 14 cm. The biology of all but one species is poorly known and many species have restricted distributions. Some are considered to be endangered (Bruce et al. 1998, 1999; Pogonoski et al. 2002), and one species is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Bruce & Last 1996).

Paxton et al. (2006) listed four described species, and an additional species was described by Last et al. (2007). The family was revised by Last & Gledhill (2009), who described three new genera and nine new species. Pietsch (1981) described and discussed some osteological features of the family. Carnevale & Pietsch (2010) provided a phylogeny of the family and described fossil brachionichyids from the Eocene of Monte Bolca, Italy.


General References

Bruce, B. & Last, P. 1996. Brachionichthys hirsutus. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1.. (Downloaded 21 June 2011)

Bruce, B.D., Green, M.A. & Last, P.R. 1998. Threatened fishes of the world: Brachionichthys hirsutus (Lacépède, 1804) (Brachionichthyidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 52: 416–417

Bruce, B.D., Green, M.A. & Last, P.R. 1999. Aspects of the biology of the endangered spotted handfish, Brachionichthys hirsutus (Lophiiformes: Brachionichthyidae) off southern Australia. pp. 369-380 in Séret B. & Sire, J.-Y. (eds). Proceedings of the 5th Indo-Pacific Fish Conference, Nouméa, 3-8 November 1997. Paris : Société Française d'Ichtyologie 888 pp.

Carnevale, G. & T.W. Pietsch 2010. Eocene handfishes from Monte Bolca, with description of a new genus and species, and a phylogeny of the family Brachionichthyidae (Teleostei: Lophiiformes). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 160: 621–647, with 13 figs

Last, P.R., Gledhill, D.C. & Holmes, B.H. 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

Last, P.R. & Gledhill, D.C. 2009. A revision of the Australian handfishes (Lophiiformes: Brachionichthyidae), with descriptions of three new genera and nine new species. Zootaxa 2252: 1-77

Last, P.R. & Gomon, M.F. 2008. Family Brachionichthyidae: Handfishes. pp. 375-376 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Paxton, J.R., Gates, J.E. & Hoese, D.F. 2006. Brachionichthyidae. pp. 647–649 in Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & Allen, G.R. Fishes. In, Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Vol. 35. Volume 35 Australia : ABRS & CSIRO Publishing Parts 1-3, 2178 pp.

Pietsch, T.W. 1981. The osteology and relationships of the anglerfish genus Tetrabrachium with comments on lophiiform classification. Fishery Bulletin (U.S.) 79(3): 387-419 figs 1-41

Pognoski, J.J., Pollard, D.A. & Paxton, J.R. 2002. Conservation Overview and Action Plan for Australian Threatened and Potentially Threatened Marine and Estuarine Fishes. Canberra : Environment Australia 375 pp.


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
25-Jun-2015 LOPHIIFORMES 12-May-2015 MODIFIED Dr Dianne Bray (NMV) Dr Doug Hoese (AM) Dr Matthew Lockett (AM)
12-Feb-2010 (import)