Giant Hatchetfish, Argyropelecus gigas Click to enlarge image
A Giant Hatchetfish from the Australian Museum Ichthyology Collection (AMS I.27594-008). The fish was collected in March 1988 at a depth of approximately 500m off New South Wales. Image: Rohan Pethiyagoda
© Rohan Pethiyagoda

Fast Facts

  • Classification
  • Size Range
    The species grows to 11 cm in length.


The common name of the hatchetfishes refers to their distinctive body form. The sharp row of scutes along the belly form the blade of the hatchet and the rear of the fish forms the handle.


The common name of the hatchetfishes (family Sternoptychidae) comes from their distinctive body form. They are mostly deep-bodied, compressed fishes which have a sharp "blade" along the lower margin of the body and a "handle" formed by the posterior half of the body. One of the distinguishing characters of the genus Argyropelecus is the presence of a bony blade in front of the dorsal fin.

Hatchetfishes are deepsea fishes which have upward-directed eyes and light-producing photophores. Some of the photophores of the Large Hatchetfish in the image are visible as yellowish dots in a row above the anal fin and running along the abdominal margin. In life, this species is brown dorsally and on the sides. The head and ventral areas around the photophores are black, and the photophores are white to grey with a black margin.


It is most common in depths between 400 m to 600 m.


The Large Hatchetfish has a widespread marine distribution. In Australia the species is recorded from temperate marine waters from the central coast of New South Wales to south-western Western Australia, including Tasmania.

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


  1. 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.
  2. Last, P.R., E.O.G. Scott & F.H. Talbot. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority. Pp. 563.
  3. Paxton, J.R. in Gomon, M.F, C.J.M. Glover & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. Pp. 992. Last, P.R, E.O.G. Scott & F.H. Talbot. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority. Pp. 563.
  4. 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.