Bigspine Spookfish, <i>Harriotta raleighana</i>. Click to enlarge image
Bigspine Spookfish, Harriotta raleighana. Image: Unknown
© Public Domain

Fast Facts

  • Classification
  • Size Range
    The Smallspine Spookfish grows to 74cm while the Bigspine Spookfish can reach 120cm, with females growing larger than males.


Two species of Harriotta are known from Australian waters, Harriotta haeckeli and H. raleighana.

What do Spookfish look like?


Spookfish are members of the Chimaeriformes order and are considered to have evolved from an ancient shark group. They are from the family Rhinochimaeridae and are found worldwide. There are two genera are four species found in Australian waters. All Spookfish have an elongate body, pointed snout and a single gill opening.

It is easy to tell the difference between the two species of Harriota known from Australian waters, the dorsal fin of the Smallspine Spookfish, H. haeckeli, is barely taller than the second dorsal fin. As its name implies, the Bigspine Spookfish, H. raleighana, has a tall first dorsal fin that is more than twice the height of the second dorsal fin.

Where do Spookfish live?


Both species live in deep continental slope waters from 1400-2600 m for Harriotta haeckeli and between 350-1080, (mainly 700-900 m) for Harriotta raleighana.


Both species are known from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean. In Australia the Smallspine Spookfish is known from South Eastern Australia, while the Bigspine Spookfish is known from Brush Island in New South Wales to Geraldton, Western Australia, including Tasmania. It is also known from New Zealand.

Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

What do Spookfish eat?

Feeding and diet

Spookfish feed mainly on bottom dwelling shellfish or crustaceans.

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  1. Martin F. Gomon, Harriotta in Fishes of Australia, accessed 05 Aug 2022,
  2. 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.
  3. Last, P.R. & J.D. Stevens. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Edition 2. CSIRO. Pp. 644, Pl. 1-91.