Desmodema polystictum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Lampriformes
Family: Trachipteridae


The ribbonfish are any lampriform in the family Trachipteridae. These pelagic fish are named for their slim, ribbon-like appearance. They are rarely seen alive as they typically live in deep waters (though are not bottom feeders).

They are readily recognized by their anatomy: a long, compressed, tape-like body, short head, narrow mouth and feeble teeth. A high dorsal fin occupies the whole length of the back; an anal fin is absent, and the caudal fin, if present, consists of two fascicles of rays of which the upper is prolonged and directed upwards. The pectoral fins are small, the pelvic fins composed of several rays, or of one long ray only. They have heavy spines along their lateral lines, and numerous lumps in the skin.[1] Ribbon fish possess all the characteristics of fish living at very great depths. Their fins especially, and the membrane connecting them, are of a very delicate and brittle structure. In young ribbonfish some of the fin-rays are prolonged in an extraordinary degree, and sometimes provided with appendages.

Specimens have been taken in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean,they have been found in Bay of Bengal, at Mauritius and in the Pacific. The species from the Atlantic has occurred chiefly on the northern coasts, Iceland, Scandinavia, Orkney and Scotland. The north Atlantic species is known in English as deal fish, in Icelandic "vogmær" and Swedish vågmär. Its length is usually 5 to 8 feet (1.5–3.5 m), but it can sometimes be found at over 20 feet. Specimens seem usually to be driven to the shore by gales in winter, and are sometimes left by the tide. S. Nilsson, however, in Scandinavia observed a living specimen in two or three fathoms (4–5 m) of water moving something like a flatfish with one side turned obliquely upwards. A specimen of Trachipterus ishikawae was discovered on a beach in Kenting, Taiwan in November 2007, alive but with a 10-cm cut wound to its side, and was returned to deeper water.

The species, Trachipterus ishikawae, is commonly called "earthquake fish" in Taiwan because the fish are popularly believed to appear following major earthquake events due to alleged sensitivity to disturbances in the ocean floor. There are records of such appearances following a 100-year earthquake in Hengchun in late 2006 and in Taidong in 2007, as well as the numerous recent March 2010 sightings along the coast of Japan, but other recorded sightings do not correspond with seismic disturbances.


FishBase reports ten species in three genera:

  • Genus Desmodema
    • Whiptail ribbonfish, Desmodema lorum Rosenblatt & Butler, 1977.
    • Polka-dot ribbonfish, Desmodema polystictum (Ogilby, 1898).
  • Genus Trachipterus
  • Genus Zu
    • Scalloped ribbonfish, Zu cristatus (Bonelli, 1819).
    • Taper-tail ribbonfish, Zu elongatus Heemstra & Kannemeyer, 1984.


  1. ^ Olney, John E. (1998). Paxton, J.R. & Eschmeyer, W.N.. ed. Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego: Academic Press. p. 158. ISBN 0-12-547665-5. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • ribbonfish — [rib′ənfish΄] n. pl. ribbonfish or ribbonfishes (see FISH) any of a family (Trachipteridae, order Lampriformes) of elongated, marine bony fishes having a ribbonlike, compressed body …   English World dictionary

  • ribbonfish — /rib euhn fish /, n., pl. (esp. collectively) ribbonfish, (esp. referring to two or more kinds or species) ribbonfishes. 1. any of several marine fishes of the families Trachipteridae, Regalicidae, and Lophotidae, having a long, compressed,… …   Universalium

  • ribbonfish — /ˈrɪbənfɪʃ/ (say ribuhnfish) noun (plural ribbonfish or ribbonfishes) any of various deep sea fishes belonging to the family Trachipteridae, characterised by a long, compressed tape like body, as Desmodema arawatae, occasionally found along the… …   Australian English dictionary

  • ribbonfish — kaspiniuotė statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas taksono rangas rūšis atitikmenys: lot. Agrostichthys parkeri angl. ribbonfish; steamer fish rus. агростихт Паркера ryšiai: platesnis terminas – kaspiniuotės …   Žuvų pavadinimų žodynas

  • ribbonfish — paprastoji siūlauodegė kalavija statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas taksono rangas rūšis atitikmenys: lot. Trichiurus lepturus angl. Atlantic cutlass fish; bondfish; cutlass fish; largehead hairtail; ribbonfish; scabbard fish; snakefish rus.… …   Žuvų pavadinimų žodynas

  • ribbonfish — silkių karalius statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas taksono rangas rūšis atitikmenys: lot. Regalecus glesne angl. king of the herrings; ribbonfish rus. обыкновенная ремень рыба; обыкновенный сельдяной король ryšiai: platesnis terminas –… …   Žuvų pavadinimų žodynas

  • ribbonfish — noun Date: circa 1798 any of a family (Trachipteridae) of elongate greatly compressed marine bony fishes (as a dealfish) with a long ribbonlike dorsal fin arising from behind the head …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • ribbonfish — noun Any of several lampriform fish, of the genus Trachipterus, having long, ribbon like bodies …   Wiktionary

  • ribbonfish — n. marine fish that have long tapering ribbon like bodies; extremely long deep water tropical fish …   English contemporary dictionary

  • ribbonfish — noun (plural same or ribbonfishes) a dealfish, oarfish, or similar long slender fish with a flattened body …   English new terms dictionary

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