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Fringe-Lipped Flathead.jpg
Sunagocia otaitensis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family: Platycephalidae
T. N. Gill, 1872
A Platycephalidae buried in the sand (Komodo, Indonesia)

The Platycephalidae are a family of marine fish, most commonly referred to as flatheads. They are relatives of the popular lionfish, belonging to the order Scorpaeniformes.

Members of the family can be found naturally in coastal waters throughout the Indo-Pacific. A few species have been caught in the eastern Mediterranean, having traveled there from the Red Sea through the Suez Canal.


A Platycephalid in Papua New Guinea

Platycephalids are small to medium-sized fish. Most species are small, reaching an average of 10 cm in length. However, a few species in the genus Platycephalus are known to grow up to a meter in length. Their most distinctive characteristic is the flattened shape of their heads. While the rest of their bodies is shaped similarly to other fish that inhabit the areas they frequent, their heads are triangle-shaped and dorsoventrally depressed, giving them the shape of a trowel or an artist's spatula.[2] Their eyes are situated on the upper surface, in accordance with their bottom-dwelling lifestyle. They possess two complete dorsal fins, the first one supported by six to 9 strong spines.

A platycephalid

Flatheads are mostly marine demersal fish, often resting directly on the seabed, sometimes partially buried in sand or mud. They can be found in a wide range of depths, ranging from 10 m to the edge of the continental shelf at depths of about 300 m (980 ft).[2]

Flatheads are carnivorous, feeding on small fish and crustaceans. They lie in wait buried by sand, with only their eyes poking out from the substrate. When prospective prey walks or swims close to the platycephalid's head, the flathead strikes rapidly, engulfing the prey in its large mouth.

Active commercial fisheries are geared towards members of the family. In Japan, some species are the subject of experimental aquaculture programs. Flatheads are occasionally caught on rod and line and the larger species are considered game fish.

The name of the family is derived from the Greek words platy, meaning "flat", and kephale for "head".

Papilloculiceps longiceps
Platycephalus fuscus


  1. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2012). "Platycephalidae" in FishBase. December 2012 version.
  2. ^ a b Eschmeyer, William N. (1998). Paxton, J.R.; Eschmeyer, W.N., eds. Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego: Academic Press. p. 177. ISBN 0-12-547665-5. 

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