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Temporal range: 59–0Ma
Paleogene to Present[1]
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Istiophoridae
Genus: Istiophorus
Lacépède, 1801
Species: I. platypterus
Binomial name
Istiophorus platypterus
(G. Shaw, 1792)


  • Histiophorus G. Cuvier, 1832
  • Nothistium Hermann, 1804
  • Zanclurus Swainson, 1839


  • Xiphias platypterus G. Shaw, 1792
  • Scomber gladius Bloch, 1793
  • Histiophorus gladius (Bloch, 1793)
  • Istiophorus gladius (Bloch, 1793)
  • Xiphias velifer Bloch & J. G. Schneider, 1801
  • Istiophorus gladifer Lacépède, 1801
  • Makaira albicans Latreille, 1804
  • Histiophorus albicans (Latreille, 1804)
  • Istiophorus albicans (Latreille, 1804)
  • Histiophorus immaculatus Rüppell, 1830
  • Istiophorus immaculatus (Rüppell, 1830)
  • Histiophorus indicus G. Cuvier, 1832
  • Makaira velifera G. Cuvier, 1832
  • Histiophorus americanus G. Cuvier, 1832
  • Istiophorus americanus (G. Cuvier, 1832)
  • Histiophorus pulchellus G. Cuvier, 1832
  • Skeponopodus guebucu Nardo, 1833
  • Histiophorus orientalis Temminck & Schlegel, 1844
  • Istiophorus orientalis (Temminck & Schlegel, 1844)
  • Histiophorus granulifer Castelnau, 1861
  • Istiophorus triactis Klunzinger, 1871
  • Istiophorus dubius Bleeker, 1872
  • Istiophorus japonicus D. S. Jordan & W. F. Thompson, 1914
  • Istiophorus eriquius D. S. Jordan & Ball, 1926
  • Istiophorus greyi D. S. Jordan & Evermann, 1926
  • Istiophorus gladius greyi D. S. Jordan & Evermann, 1926
  • Istiophorus maguirei D. S. Jordan & Evermann, 1926
  • Istiophorus volador D. S. Jordan & Evermann, 1926
  • Istiophorus wrighti D. S. Jordan & Evermann, 1926
  • Istiophorus brookei Fowler, 1933
  • Istiophorus ludibundus Whitley, 1933
  • Istiophorus amarui Curtiss, 1944

Istiophorus platypterus, the Sailfish, is a species of billfish living in warmer sections of all the oceans of the world. They are predominately blue to gray in colour and have a characteristic erectile dorsal fin known as a sail, which often stretches the entire length of the back. Another notable characteristic is the elongated bill, resembling that of the swordfish and other marlins. They are therefore described as billfish in sport fishing circles.


A sailfish exhibiting sail-raising behavior

Sailfish grow quickly, reaching 1.2–1.5 metres (3 ft 11 in–4 ft 11 in) in length in a single year, and feed on the surface or at mid-depths on smaller pelagic forage fish and squid. Individuals have been clocked at speeds of up to 110 kilometres per hour (68 mph), which is one of the highest speeds reliably reported in any water organism.[3][4] Generally, sailfish do not grow to more than 3 metres (9.8 ft) in length and rarely weigh over 90 kilograms (200 lb).

The sail is normally kept folded down and to the side when swimming, but it may be raised when the sailfish feels threatened or excited, making the fish appear much larger than it actually is. This tactic has also been observed during feeding, when a group of sailfish use their sails to "herd" a school of fish or squid.

Ernest Hemingway in Key West, Florida, USA, in the 1940s, with a sailfish he had caught

Sailfish are highly prized game fish and are known for their incredible jumps and great speed. They can swim 100 meters in 4.8 seconds. They can appear in a startling array of colours, from subdued browns and grays to vibrant purples and even silver. Their body colours are often highlighted by stripes of iridescent blue and silver dots. Sailfish can change their colours almost instantly—a change controlled by their nervous system. The sailfish can rapidly turn its body light blue with yellowish stripes when excited, confusing its prey and making capture easier, while signalling its intentions to fellow sailfish.[5]



  1. ^ Sepkoski, Jack (2002). "A compendium of fossil marine animal genera". Bulletins of American Paleontology 364: p.560. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 
  2. ^ Collette, B., Acero, A., Amorim, A.F., Boustany, A., Canales Ramirez, C., Cardenas, G., Carpenter, K.E., de Oliveira Leite Jr., N., Di Natale, A., Die, D., Fox, W., Fredou, F.L., Graves, J., Guzman-Mora, A., Viera Hazin, F.H., Hinton, M., Juan Jorda, M., Minte Vera, C., Miyabe, N., Montano Cruz, R., Nelson, R., Oxenford, H., Restrepo, V., Salas, E., Schaefer, K., Schratwieser, J., Serra, R., Sun, C., Teixeira Lessa, R.P., Pires Ferreira Travassos, P.E., Uozumi, Y. & Yanez, E. 2011. Istiophorus platypterus. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. <>. Downloaded on 18 October 2013.
  3. ^ McGrouther, M. (2013). Sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus. Australian Museum. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  4. ^ Haulin' Bass - Accessed March 19, 2008
  5. ^ [1] National Geographic Society


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