Brachionichthyidae, Gill, 1878

Last, Peter R. & Gledhill Csiro, Daniel C., 2009, A revision of the Australian handfishes (Lophiiformes: Brachionichthyidae), with descriptions of three new genera and nine new species 2252, Zootaxa 2252 (1), pp. 1-77 : 8

publication ID 10.11646/zootaxa.2252.1.1

persistent identifier

treatment provided by


scientific name



Family Brachionichthyidae

Subfamily Brachionichthyinae Gill, 1878: 221 , 222 (family Antennariidae ); elevated to family Brachionichthyidae Gill, 1878 by McCulloch and Waite (1918). Type genus: Brachionichthys Bleeker, 1855: 21 .

Definition. Lophiiform fishes with spinous fin consisting of three cephalic spines, all emerging from dorsal surface of cranium; illicium not retractable within a cavity but often depressible into a shallow groove on either side of first dorsal fin; esca rudimentary to well developed ( Fig. 2 View FIGURE 2 ); second and third dorsal-fin spines united by membrane to form first dorsal fin; skin naked to variably covered with often deeply embedded, spinulose scales ( Figs 3–5 View FIGURE 3 View FIGURE 4 View FIGURE 5 ); pterygiophores of illicium and third dorsal-fin spine with highly compressed, blade-like dorsal expansions; ectopterygoid roughly oval in shape or absent; interopercle flat and rounded; interhyal with medial, posterolaterally directed processes; parietals meeting in midline and dorsal to supraoccipital; ceratobranchials I–III with one or more tooth plates; hypobranchial II simple; hypobranchial III absent; pectoral-fin radials 2, rays 6–10; pelvic fin consisting of 1 spine and 4 rays; soft-dorsal fin rays 14– 19; anal-fin rays 6–11; and vertebrae 20–26.

Recognised genera. Brachionichthys Bleeker and Sympterichthys Gill , and three new genus-level taxa Brachiopsilus gen. nov., Pezichthys gen. nov. and Thymichthys gen. nov.

Life history and habitat. Found on both hard and soft substrates ( Fig. 6 View FIGURE 6 ) from the nearshore to about 280 m (possibly to 500 m), however, most species are found only on the continental shelf. All extant species are confined to eastern and southern Australia and most occur in small, disjunct populations. Details of the life history of most species are unknown but some information exists for Brachionichthys hirsutus ( Bruce et al. 1999) . Females lay small clusters of large eggs that are encapsulated and connected by filaments. Clusters are attached to the substrate by these filaments and there is evidence of parental care until they hatch. Young handfishes, resembling the adults in morphology, emerge from their egg cases and move around by walking around on the substrate rather than swimming .

Remarks. Osteological characters above are based mainly on Pietsch (1981) and the presence/absence of these characters has not been confirmed for most of the taxa treated herein. A skeletal study is the subject of an investigation in progress. Several of the species are known from very few individuals (some only from the holotype) so the authors are presently attempting to acquire additional material for clearing and staining.













Last, Peter R. & Gledhill Csiro, Daniel C. 2009


Gill, T. N. 1878: 221
Bleeker, P. 1855: 21
Darwin Core Archive (for parent article) View in SIBiLS Plain XML RDF