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Atlantic threadfin, Polydactylus octonemus
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Polynemidae
Rafinesque, 1815[1]

See text

Threadfins are silvery grey perciform fish of the family Polynemidae. Found in tropical to subtropical waters throughout the world, the threadfin family contains eight genera and about 40 species.[2] An unrelated species sometimes known by the name threadfin, Alectis indicus, is properly the Indian threadfish (family Carangidae).

Ranging in length from 11 cm (4.5 in) in the dwarf threadfin (Parapolynemus verekeri) to 2 m (6.6 ft) in fourfinger threadfin (Eleutheronema tetradactylum) and giant African threadfin (Polydactylus quadrifilis), threadfins are both important to commercial fisheries as a food fish, and popular among anglers. Their habit of forming large schools makes the threadfins a reliable and economic catch.


Their bodies are elongated and fusiform, with spinous and soft dorsal fins widely separated. Their tail fins are large and deeply forked, indicating speed and agility. The mouth is large and inferior; a blunt snout projects far ahead. The jaws and palate possess bands of villiform (fibrous) teeth. Their most distinguishing feature is their pectoral fins: they are composed of two distinct sections, the lower of which consists of three to seven long, thread-like independent rays. Polynemus species may have up to 15 of these modified rays.

Polydactylus sexfilis or moi (sixfinger threadfins),[3] were reserved for Hawaiian royalty or the aliʻi.[4]

In some species, such as the royal threadfin (Pentanemus quinquarius), the thread-like rays may extend well past the tail fin. This feature explains both the common name threadfin and the family name Polynemidae, from the Greek poly meaning "many" and nema meaning "filament." Similar species, such as the mullets (family Mugilidae) and milkfish (family Chanidae), can be easily distinguished from threadfins by their lack of filamentous pectoral rays.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Threadfins frequent open, shallow water in areas with muddy, sandy, or silty bottoms; they are rarely seen at reefs. Their pectoral rays are thought to serve as tactile structures, helping to find prey within the sediments. Noted for being euryhaline, threadfins can tolerate a wide range of salinity levels. This attribute allows threadfins to enter estuaries and even rivers. They feed primarily on crustaceans and smaller fish.


Presumed to be pelagic spawners, threadfins probably release many tiny, buoyant eggs into the water column, which then become part of the plankton. The eggs float freely with the currents until hatching.


Threadfin has been used to create crab stick.


In Hawaii, sixfinger threadfins are the subject of commercial open-ocean cage mariculture.[5][6]

Genera and species[edit]

Fourfinger threadfin (Eleutheronema tetradactylum)
Sevenfinger threadfin (Filimanus heptadactyla)
Elegant paradise fish (Polynemus multifilis)

The species in eight genera are:

Timeline of genera[edit]



  1. ^ Richard van der Laan; William N. Eschmeyer & Ronald Fricke (2014). "Family-group names of Recent fishes". Zootaxa. 3882 (2): 001–230. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.3882.1.1. PMID 25543675.
  2. ^ "Inserts for pages 437-441" (PDF). John Wiley & Sons Limited. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  3. ^ Froese, Rainer; Pauly, Daniel (eds.) (2019). "Polydactylus sexfilis" in FishBase. August 2019 version.
  4. ^ Suryanata, Krisnawati; Umemoto, Karen N. (2005). "Tension at the nexus of the global and local: culture, property, and marine aquaculture in Hawai'i". Environment and Planning A. 35 (2): 199, 206. CiteSeerX doi:10.1068/a35116. S2CID 143928957.
  5. ^ Lin, DT; Bailey-Brock, JH (2008). "Partial recovery of infaunal communities during a fallow period at an open-ocean aquaculture". Marine Ecology Progress Series. 371: 65–72. Bibcode:2008MEPS..371...65L. doi:10.3354/meps07675.
  6. ^ Lee, HW; Bailey-Brock, JH; McGurr, MM (2006). "Temporal changes in the polychaete infaunal community surrounding a Hawaiian mariculture operation". Marine Ecology Progress Series. 307: 175–185. Bibcode:2006MEPS..307..175L. doi:10.3354/meps307175.
  7. ^ Girard, Matthew G.; Davis, Matthew P.; Baldwin, Carole C.; Dettaï, Agnès; Martin, Rene P.; Smith, W. Leo (2022). "Molecular phylogeny of the threadfin fishes (Polynemidae) using ultraconserved elements". Journal of Fish Biology. 100 (3): 793–810. doi:10.1111/jfb.14997. ISSN 1095-8649. PMID 35137410. S2CID 246678758.

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