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Temporal range: 55–0 Ma

Lutetian to Present[1]
CSIRO ScienceImage 10 The Endangered Spotted Handfish.jpg
Brachionichthys hirsutus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Lophiiformes
Suborder: Antennarioidei
Family: Brachionichthyidae
T. N. Gill, 1878


Handfish are any anglerfish within the family Brachionichthyidae, a group which comprises five genera and 14 extant species.[2] These benthic marine fish are unusual in the way they propel themselves by walking on the sea floor rather than swimming.


Handfish are found today in the coastal waters of southern Australia and Tasmania. This is the most species-rich of the few marine fish families endemic to the Australian region.


Handfish grow up to 15 cm (5.9 in) long, and have skin covered with denticles (tooth-like scales), giving them the alternate name warty anglers. They are slow-moving fish that prefer to 'walk' rather than swim, using their modified pectoral fins to move about on the sea floor. These highly modified fins have the appearance of hands, hence their scientific name, from Latin bracchium meaning "arm" and Greek ichthys meaning "fish".

Like other anglerfish, they possess an illicium, a modified dorsal fin ray above the mouth, but it is short and does not appear to be used as a fishing lure.[dubious ][1] The second dorsal spine is joined to the third by a flap of skin, making a crest.[3]

Fossil record[edit]

The prehistoric species, Histionotophorus bassani, from the Lutetian of Monte Bolca, is now considered to be a handfish, sometimes even being included in the genus Brachionichthys.


  1. ^ Sepkoski, Jack (2002). "A compendium of fossil marine animal genera". Bulletins of American Paleontology. 364: 560. Archived from the original on April 30, 2008.
  2. ^ Last, P.R.; Gledhill, D.C. (2009). "A revision of the Australian handfishes (Lophiiformes: Brachionichthyidae), with descriptions of three new genera and nine new species" (PDF). Zootaxa. 2252: 1–77.
  3. ^ Pietsch, Theodore W. (2005). "Brachionichthyidae". Tree of Life web project. Retrieved 4 April 2006.

External links[edit]