Brachionichthys hirsutus (Lacepède)

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 : 15-19

publication ID 10.11646/zootaxa.2252.1.1


persistent identifier

treatment provided by


scientific name

Brachionichthys hirsutus (Lacepède)


Brachionichthys hirsutus (Lacepède)

Figs 1 View FIGURE 1 , 2 View FIGURE 2 , 3 View FIGURE 3 , 6 View FIGURE 6 , 7, 9; Tables 7–10

Lophius hirsutus Lacepède, 1804: 202 , 210, pl. 55 (3); type not designated; southern coast of Australia, presumably Tasmania [original description].

Chironectes punctatus Cuvier, 1817: 434 , pl. 18 (2, 5); lectotype MNHN A 4627, by subsequent designation of Le Danois (1964: 139), paralectotype apparently skeletonised and subsequently lost, see Pietsch, 1985; southern Australia, presumably Tasmania [new name for Lophius hirsutus Lacepède ].

Chironectes hirsutus: Valenciennes, 1837: 434 [new combination].

Brachionichthys hirsutus: Bleeker, 1855: 22–23 [new combination].

Brachionichthys politus (not Richardson): Whitley, 1949: 403 [misidentification].

Lectotype. MNHN A 4627 View Materials , 78.7 mm SL, coast of southern Australia (probably Tasmania), voyage de Péron (1800–1804), no other data.

Additional material. 5 specimens (63–101 mm SL): NMV A 21672 View Materials , 62.6 mm SL, Derwent Estuary , Tasmania, 42° 57'S, 147° 21'E, 10 Mar. 1997; NMV A 21687 View Materials , 66 View Materials GoogleMaps mm SL, Derwent Estuary , Tasmania, 42° 55'S, 147° 21'E, 1997; QVMT 1974.5 GoogleMaps .165, 2 specimens, 84.4 and 89.4 mm SL, off Cape Portland , Tasmania, ca. 40° 43'S, 148° 00'E, 8 Sep. 1974. QVMT GoogleMaps 2009.5. 1, 100.6 mm SL, off St Helens, Tasmania, ca. 41° 18'S, 148° 20'E, no other data GoogleMaps .

Material from Last et al. (2007). 81 specimens (21–83 mm SL): CSIRO C 2986 View Materials , CSIRO H 797–01 View Materials , CSIRO H 2629–01 View Materials , CSIRO H 2629–02 View Materials , CSIRO H 2629–03 View Materials , CSIRO H 2629–04 View Materials , CSIRO H 4114–01 View Materials , CSIRO H 4114–02 View Materials , CSIRO H 4114–03 View Materials , CSIRO H 4114–04 View Materials , CSIRO H 4114–05 View Materials , CSIRO H 4115–01 View Materials , CSIRO H 6564– 01 View Materials , CSIRO T 2 , CSIRO T 3 , CSIRO T 7 , CSIRO T 10 , CSIRO T 11 , CSIRO T 1989–01 , CSIRO T 1990–01 , NMV A 2305 View Materials , NMV A 29404 View Materials –001 View Materials , TMH D 80 View Materials , TMH D 81 View Materials , TMH D 237 View Materials , TMH D 240 View Materials , TMH D 254 View Materials , TMH D 269 View Materials , TMH D 364 View Materials , TMH D 640 View Materials , TMH D 650 View Materials , TMH D 746 View Materials , TMH D 962 View Materials , TMH D 965 View Materials , TMH D 966 View Materials , TMH D 1309 View Materials , TMH D 1333 View Materials , TMH D 1775 View Materials , TMH D 1892 View Materials , TMH D 1929 View Materials , TMH D 1938 View Materials .

Diagnosis. Member of the genus Brachionichthys with a combination of the following characters: esca small, 15–26 (mean 20)% of illicium length (including esca); illicium very slender, length 19–20% SL, 2.3– 2.4 times in head length; apex of adpressed illicium reaching to or just behind base of third dorsal-fin spine; esca barely thicker than illicial stem, its filamentous branches multiple, irregular, dense, short thallate; eye moderate-sized, horizontal diameter exceeding 5.4 times in head, 7.0–8.5% SL; upper lip very fleshy; relatively short first dorsal-fin base (length 23–26% SL); second dorsal-fin rays 17–19 (mean 18), length of fin base 61–64 (mean 62)% SL; length of second dorsal-fin spine 0.7–1.0 times length of longest ray of second dorsal fin; vertebrae 22–26; upper body usually covered with fine, dark spots or short streaks (rarely with long streaks on head); caudal fin with dense coverage of fine spots, forming a dark submarginal bar in juveniles.

FIGURE 7. Collection localities for: A. Brachionichthys australis holotype () and additional material (•); and B. all material of B. hirsutus (). Locations are approximate, and may represent multiple records; they include registered collection, and verified, non-retained material.

Size. To 100.6 mm SL (ca. 143 mm TL), adults more commonly ~ 60–75 mm SL; juveniles hatch at about 6–7 mm SL (the caption for figure 8 in Last et al. (2007) erroneously states that the newly hatched juvenile is 30 mm TL, this should read ca. 6 mm TL). Egg masses contain about 80– 250 eggs (1.8–2 mm diameter); egg capsules about 3–4 mm diameter and connected by strands.

Distribution. Now confined to southeastern Tasmania (Derwent River estuary mouth and adjacent marine embayments) but once more widespread in disjunct populations off eastern Tasmania; mainly demersal inshore (ca. 5–15 m) on the continental shelf, but probably occurred at depths of 1– 60 m. Appears to have undergone a major range reduction and its populations have declined significantly since its discovery; now considered to be Critically Endangered (Bruce & Last, 2006) and Endangered (Australian Government Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999 and the State Government of Tasmania Threatened Species Protection Act, 1995, Anon 2005, 07). Specimens were collected in Great Oyster Bay, central eastern Tasmania (ca. 42° 06′S, 148° 09′E) between 1909 and 1957, the Huon Estuary (ca. 43° 12′S, 147° 04′E) in the 1940s, and more widely in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel (ca. 43° 03′S, 147° 20′E) in the 1960’s and 1980s, but have not been collected from these regions since. In 1974, two specimens (QVMT 1974.5.165) were obtained from Cape Portland, eastern Bass Strait (ca. 40° 43'S, 148° 00'E), and an additional specimen (QVMT 2009.5.1, date unspecified) was collected from off St Helens, eastern Tasmania (ca. 41° 18'S, 148° 20'E). No other records of this species exist from Bass Strait or off eastern Tasmania despite extensive commercial and recreational dive effort, a scallop fishery and several biological surveys of the region in the past half century.

Etymology. The epithet is based on the Latin hirsutus (hairy) with reference to its rough, hairy skin. Vernacular name: Spotted Handfish (Yearsley et al., 2006, Last et al., 2007).

Comparisons. Brachionichthys hirsutus can be distinguished from B. australis based on its colour pattern which is more densely spotted, particularly on the caudal fin, and usually lacks thin longitudinal yellowish streaks. It also has typically shorter fins (illicium length 19–20% vs. 23–28% SL; 42–44% vs. 49–57% of head length; length of second dorsal-fin spine 0.7–1.0 vs. 1.1–1.4 times length of longest ray of second dorsal fin), a smaller eye (diameter mainly exceeding 5.4, rather than less than 5.4, in head), more second dorsal-fin rays (17–19 mainly 18 vs. 16–18, mainly 17) with a longer dorsal-fin base (61–64% vs. 55–61% SL).

Remarks. The conservation biology and population status of this species have been discussed in some detail (Green & Bruce, 1998; Bruce et al., 1998, 1999; Last et al., 2007). Museum data indicates that B. hirsutus was probably reasonably common in Great Oyster Bay before the First World War. Similarly, handfishes taken by early French explorers suggest that B. hirsutus was likely to be abundant in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel in the early 19 th C. Periodic sightings throughout the 20 th C indicate that these populations remained viable up until at least the mid 1980s. Dredges are very efficient in catching small, slow-moving benthic fishes, such as adult handfishes, and can impact on breeding populations by damaging critical spawning substrate (see Bruce et al., 1998, 1999). These areas were subjected to aggressive harvesting of the commercial scallop ( Pecten fumatus ), from the 1960s through to the 1980s, using dredges (Dix, 1982), and B. hirsutus has not been collected in either area since (apart from North West Bay, near the Derwent Estuary mouth) despite several scallop surveys and special requests to fishers to report sightings. The likely extirpation of B. hirsutus from these regions flags the need for strong management approaches to be put in place to conserve the remaining populations.


Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle


Museum Victoria


Australian National Fish Collection


Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery














Brachionichthys hirsutus (Lacepède)

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

Brachionichthys hirsutus:

Bleeker, P. 1855: 23

Chironectes hirsutus:

Valenciennes, A. 1837: 434

Chironectes punctatus

Le Danois, Y. 1964: 139
Cuvier, G. 1817: 434

Lophius hirsutus Lacepède, 1804: 202

Lacepede, B. G. E. 1804: 202
Darwin Core Archive (for parent article) View in SIBiLS Plain XML RDF