Batfish in Sydney Harbour

By: Mark McGrouther, Category: Science, Date: 05 May 2011

Sydney Harbour doesn't immediately spring to mind when you think of tropical fishes. That's why we were recently surprised to hear about juvenile Roundface Batfish that have been seen near Clifton Gardens and in Parsley Bay, in the outer harbour.

Juvenile Roundface Batfish

Juvenile Roundface Batfish
Photographer: Richard Vevers © Richard Vevers

I was first alerted to the presence of one fish by Richard Vevers of Underwater Sydney on 15 April.  Since then, a number of people have contacted me, including Henry Budd the Telegraph's Harbour Reporter.

Chris McDonald contacted me to say that three specimens are now swimming in warmer water at Sydney Aquarium.

The Roundface Batfish is a rare visitor to Sydney Harbour.  The only other confirmed specimen from the harbour was caught near Manly Pier in 1976.  It is now preserved in the Australian Museum Ichthyology Collection.  Interestingly that fish was also seen in May. 

Further reading:

  1. Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press. Pp. 557.
  2. Tropical Nemo and his mates saved from a slow cold death (The Telegraph, 5 May 2011)


Tags fishes, ichthyology, batfish, Roundface Batfish, Platax teira, Ephippidae,


Mark McGrouther - 10.05 PM, 05 May 2011

Hi Bob,  Thank you for your great post.  I had no idea that there had been a batfish at Parsley Bay for some time.  It's excellent that you are documenting your sightings, but on the other hand a real shame that a good data set like yours doesn't have a public outlet through which information could be shared with others.  I have been spending some time lately thinking along these lines and wondering how we could rectify the situation.   Feel free to email me with follow-up thoughts or add additional comments.

RHitchen - 4.05 PM, 05 May 2011
Subject: Long fin batfish Message: Hi Mark, My brother alerted me to today's Daily Telgraph article. I snorkel all year round and visit Parsley Bay for a snorkel at least once every weekend and keep a record of everything I see, ie what species and how many. There has been a juvenile long fin/long tail batfish in the bay for almost the last 2-3 months including up to last Sunday. It is usually located near the middle of the net, although when my brother and I first sighted it it was on net on the far eastern edge of the bay. Thought you might be interested, although I guess from your article on this website it appears a batfish (was it a longfin batfish?)in Parsley Bay has been already reported. thanks & regards yours sincerely Robert (Bob) Hitchen
Mark McGrouther - 4.05 PM, 05 May 2011

No worries Lynda.  We have just received another interesting comment about a recent juvenile batfish sighting in Sydney Harbour.  See the comment on the Ephippidae - Batfishes page.

Lynda Kelly - 12.05 PM, 05 May 2011

What a cool story Mark. Thnx for posting it!

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