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Rabbitfish, Rabbit Fish, Ratfish, Ghostshark,
Body gradually tapers towards tail. Torso predominantly reddish brown with a
pattern of white marbling that forms irregular lines laterally along back and
flanks. A well defined lateral line is visible on flank between head and tail
filament. Tail filament white.
Large, black eyes may appear green in reflected light.
Dorsal fin tall, with a prominent, venomous spine on leading edge. Dorsal fin
has rays similar to bony fishes and can be laid flat. Second dorsal low and very
long; extending from trailing edge of first dorsal to leading edge of caudal
Very large pectoral fins are used in locomotion i.e. flapping.
Maximum length 1.5m.
and mud bottoms and sometimes rocky reefs. Listed as occurring between 40m and
1663m. However, in Trondheim Fiord it is regularly observed as shallow as
Distribution: Confined to the Northeast Atlantic Ocean and Mediterannean
Sea. The rabbitfish can be found from Northern Norway and Iceland southward to Morocco and eastward to
Greece. Records from South Africa are questionable.
Still relatively abundant.
Diet and Behavior:
slowly across sand in search of prey. Crushes clams, crabs, and shrimp
etc. in forward facing "incisors". Food located primarily by smell.
Uses its pectoral fins for locomotion.
The IUCN lists the spotted ratfish as NEAR THREATENED.
Chimaera montrosa is
taken in deepwater trawl fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic and is either
landed as byproduct or is a component of discarded bycatch (Crozier in
prep.). In a study of discards of the French bottom trawl fleet from the
South Rockall Bank to the northerly slopes of the Wyville-Thomson Ridge, C.
the largest discard biomass of all chondrichthyans (Crozier in prep.). It
constitutes 13 to 15% of the discards in deepwater trawlers operating off
the West Coast of Ireland (Calis et
Survival rates of discards are likely low given the depths of capture, the
fact that many discards are undersized individuals or are unmarketable
individuals (suggesting damage). There is increasing interest in the
production of dietary supplements for human consumption derived from the
liver oil of this species, and a directed fishery has the potential to
develop in areas of occurrence (Calis et
In ICES Subareas VI and VII the Argentina
blue ling landings from directed fisheries increased until 2002, but then
declined in 2003. Bycatch species in these areas include bluemouth (Helicolenus
greater forkbeard (Phycis
deepwater cardinal fish (Epigonus
and chimaerids, of which Chimaera
the most important (ICES 2005).
(2005) have also reported this species as a bycatch from bottom gillnets
retrieved from 648 nets recovered during a gill net retrieval survey of
Rockall and Porcupine Bank at depths of 400 to 1,300 m during
August-September 2005. Evidence of significant quantities of lost and
abandoned gear in these areas and of excessive discarding in these fisheries
due to long soak times lead to serious concerns about the impact of ghost
fishing. There is a need for the immediate introduction of effective
management measures in these fisheries to control the quantities of gear
being fished and soak time (Rihan et
Areas of the Northeast Atlantic, for example the Rockall
Trough have been subject to a fairly rapid increase in deepwater fishing
activities since the 1990s with overall concern for the sustainability of
deepwater fish stocks (Gordon 2003). There is a continuing trend of
increasing deepwater fishing activities in the North Atlantic, while
regulation is often lagging. Deepwater chimaeroids, like other deepsea
chondrichthyans, are potentially at risk from these activities, although
little species-specific information is available. Monitoring of deepwater
fishing activities, including landings and discards will be essential to
ensure that North Atlantic chimaeroid species are not adversely affected.
Crozier (in prep.) has shown that high catches of C.
between the Rockall Bank to the Wyville-Thomson Ridge, and this likely
mirrors catches elsewhere. Further information is required on deepwater
fishing activities (including catch and bycatch levels, effort and trend
monitoring) in the North Atlantic and the conservation status of this
species should be reassessed without delay when such information is
available. Both present and future fishing pressure may be shown to be
unsustainable for C.
particularly given its preferred depth range.
Trondheim Fiord, Norway.
Similar species: The
Rabbitfish shares its range with a few other chimaeras but none within the
The Small-eyed Rabbitfish (Hydrolagus
has smaller eyes, a smaller first dorsal fin and no obvious markings.
The Large-eyed Rabbitfish (Hydrolagus mirabilis) is
The Pale Rabbitfish (Hydrolagus
pallidus) has off-white skin with no obvious patterning.
Reaction to divers:
Slowly moves away it can be easily
followed at close range with non-threatening movements.
In Trondheim Fiord, Rabbitfish come into water as shallow as 20m near
muscle farms. Big Fish Expeditions runs a Deepwater Shark Diving Expedition
every year that usually encounters Rabbit Fish and numerous other
Dagit,D.D., Hareide, N. & Clò, S. 2007. Chimaera
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2007: e.T63114A12610445.
on 15 December 2018.