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Tylosurus crocodilus.jpg
Illustration from The Bahama Islands by The Geographical Society of Baltimore 1905.
Scientific classification
T. crocodilus
Binomial name
Tylosurus crocodilus
(Péron & Lesueur, 1821)

The houndfish (Tylosurus crocodilus) is a game fish of the family Belonidae. It is the largest member of its family, growing up to 5 feet (1.5 m) in length and 10 pounds (4.5 kg) in weight. It is also often called the crocodile needlefish.


While the houndfish has no spines, its dorsal fin has 21–25 soft rays, and its anal fin has 19–22.[1] They are also known to have 80–86 vertebrae.[1] A key way of distinguishing the houndfish from other members of the genus Tylosurus is that the houndfish's teeth point anteriorly when the fish is a juvenile. The teeth of other species are straight at all ages.[2] The houndfish also has a more stout, cylindrical body and a shorter head than other needlefishes.[1] They have dark blue backs and silver-white sides and are plain white ventrally.[3] A houndfish has a distinct keel on the caudal peduncle, and the caudal fin itself is deeply forked.[1] Juvenile houndfish possess an elevated, black lobe on the posterior of their dorsal fins.[1] The longest recorded houndfish was 150 centimetres (4.9 ft),[4] and the largest recorded weight was 6.35 kilograms (14.0 lb).[5]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Houndfish (top) illustrated with several other known fishes of the Philippines.
Tylosurus crocodilus crocodilus near Réunion.

In the Indian and Pacific Oceans, houndfish are found in the Red Sea and from the coast of South Africa,[3] east to French Polynesia,[6] and north to Japan,[7] and south to New South Wales, Australia.[8] Its usual subspecies, T. c. crocodilus is replaced by T. c. fodiator, also called the Mexican needlefish, in the eastern Pacific.[1] The Mexican needlefish is found only in the eastern Pacific, from the Gulf of California south to Panama, including the area off Cocos Island.[9] In the Atlantic Ocean, houndfish are known from New Jersey to Brazil in the west,[10] and in the east, they are found from Fernando Poo, Cameroon, and Liberia to Ascension Island.[11] Houndfish can also be found near Guinea, Senegal [12] and Cape Verde.[13]

A pelagic animal,[14] houndfish can be found over lagoons and seaward reefs either as individuals or small groups,[1] where they feed mainly on smaller fishes.[15] Houndfish lay eggs which attach themselves to objects in the water via tendrils on the surface of each egg[16] .

Relationship to humans[edit]

A houndfish caught via use of artificial lights at night.

Houndfish are considered to be gamefish, and can be caught by use of artificial lights, in a similar manner to other needlefishes. Although Houndfish are considered good to eat, and are usually sold fresh, the market for them is small because their flesh has a greenish colour similar to that of the Flat needlefish.[17] The IGFA world record stands at 4.88 kg (10 lbs 12 oz) and was caught off of Goulding Cay, Bahamas in 2013 by angler Daniel John Leonard using a live pilchard as bait.[18]

Houndfish are not considered dangerous at all, and are feared by fishermen because of their size and tendency to leap out of the water, causing puncture wounds with their beaks, when frightened or attracted to the lights used to catch them.[1] In April 2000, a woman snorkeling in the Florida Keys was severely injured when she was stabbed in the neck by a houndfish that leapt out of the water.[19] In October, 2010 an ocean-kayaker was injured when she was struck in the back (and was treated for a collapsed lung) by the beak of a houndfish that jumped out of the water near her boat.[20]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2009). "Tylosurus crocodilus" in FishBase. 03 2009 version.
  2. ^ Collette, B.B. 1999 Belonidae. Needlefishes. p. 2151-2161. In: K.E. Carpenter and V.H. Niem (eds.) FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 4. Bony fishes part 2 (Mugilidae to Carangidae). FAO, Rome.
  3. ^ a b Collette, B.B. 1986 Belonidae p. 385-387. In M.M. Smith and P.C. Heemstra (eds.) Smiths' sea fishes. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
  4. ^ Sommer, C., W. Schneider and J.-M. Poutiers 1996 FAO species identification field guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of Somalia. FAO, Rome. 376 p.
  5. ^ IGFA 2001 Database of IGFA angling records until 2001. IGFA, Fort Lauderdale, USA.
  6. ^ Randall, J.E. and Y.H. Sinoto 1978 Rapan fish names. B.P. Bishop Mus. Occas. Pap. 24(15:294-306.
  7. ^ Masuda, H., K. Amaoka, C. Araga, T. Uyeno and T. Yoshino 1984 The fishes of the Japanese Archipelago. Vol. 1. Tokai University Press, Tokyo, Japan. 437 p. (text)
  8. ^ Fricke, R. 1999 Fishes of the Mascarene Islands (Réunion, Mauritius, Rodriguez): an annotated checklist, with descriptions of new species. Koeltz Scientific Books, Koenigstein, Theses Zoologicae, Vol. 31: 759 p.
  9. ^ "Mexican needlefish". FishBase. Ed. Ranier Froese and Daniel Pauly. April 2009 version. N.p.: FishBase, 2009.
  10. ^ Robins, C.R. and G.C. Ray 1986 A field guide to Atlantic coast fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, U.S.A. 354 p.
  11. ^ Collette, B.B. and N.V. Parin 1990 Belonidae. p. 592-597. In J.C. Quero, J.C. Hureau, C. Karrer, A. Post and L. Saldanha (eds.) Check-list of the fishes of the eastern tropical Atlantic (CLOFETA). JNICT, Lisbon; SEI, Paris; and UNESCO, Paris. Vol. 2
  12. ^ Diouf, P.S. 1996 Les peuplements de poissons des milieux estuariens de l'Afrique de l'Ouest: L'exemple de l'estuaire hyperhalin du Sine-Saloum. Université de Montpellier II. Thèses et Documents Microfiches No.156. ORSTOM, Paris. 267 p.
  13. ^ Reiner, F. 1996 Catálogo dos peixes do Arquipélago de Cabo Verde. Publicações avulsas do IPIMAR No. 2. 339 p.
  14. ^ Claro, R. 1994 Características generales de la ictiofauna. p. 55-70. In R. Claro (ed.) Ecología de los peces marinos de Cuba. Instituto de Oceanología Academia de Ciencias de Cuba and Centro de Investigaciones de Quintana Roo.
  15. ^ Thollot, P. 1996 Les poissons de mangrove du lagon sud-ouest de Nouvelle-Calédonie. ORSTOM Éditions, Paris.
  16. ^ Breder, C.M. and D.E. Rosen 1966 Modes of reproduction in fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune City, New Jersey. 941 p.
  17. ^ Cervigón, F., R. Cipriani, W. Fischer, L. Garibaldi, M. Hendrickx, A.J. Lemus, R. Márquez, J.M. Poutiers, G. Robaina and B. Rodriguez 1992 Fichas FAO de identificación de especies para los fines de la pesca. Guía de campo de las especies comerciales marinas y de aquas salobres de la costa septentrional de SAmérica. FAO, Rome. 513 p. Preparado con el financiamento de la Comisión de Comunidades Europeas y de NORAD.
  18. ^ "IGFA WORLD RECORD". igfa.org. International Game Fish Association. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  19. ^ Danielson, Richard (19 April 2000). "Leaping houndfish stabs teen in neck". sptimes.com. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  20. ^ McMaster, Nick (19 Oct 2010). "Beware Houndfish: They Stab People". Newser.com. Retrieved 16 January 2014.

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