Shorthead Lamprey

Mordacia mordax
Shorthead Lamprey - Marinewise © 2024 MarineWise

Quick Facts

Scientific name Mordacia mordax
Other names Murray Lamprey
Size Up to 56 cm (22 in)
Weight Under 1 kg (2.2 lb)


Habitat & AU Distribution Fresh & marine waters in coastal rivers, streams & other water ways connected to the sea
Depth Range 0 - 10 m (33 ft)
Shorthead Lamprey Distribution

Interesting Info

  • The Shorthead Lamprey is an Australian native species of jawless fish found in freshwater rivers and streams.
  • They have a long, slender body with a mouth that is round and lined with rows of sharp teeth that they use to attach themselves to their prey.
  • The species is classified as a parasite, as they feed on the blood and body fluids of other fish.
  • Shorthead Lampreys have a unique life cycle that includes a larval stage called an ammocoete, where they burrow into the riverbed and filter feed on detritus and algae. The ammocoete stage lasts for several years before they metamorphose into adults.
  • Shorthead Lampreys spawn in freshwater rivers and streams in the winter months, laying their eggs in shallow depressions in the riverbed. After spawning, the adults die, and their bodies provide nutrients to the next generation of ammocoetes.
  • Their lifespan is estimated to be around 10 years in the wild.
Species Interaction

Recreational Fishing

The shorthead lamprey is not a targeted species for recreational fishing. It is however, an important traditional food source and may be harvested for subsistence or cultural purposes with some Indigenous communities.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Hyperoartia

Order: Petromyzontiformes

Family: Mordaciidae

Genus: Mordacia

Species: Mordacia mordax

Conservation Status

The conservation status of the shorthead lamprey varies depending on the state or territory where it is found. In Victoria, the species is listed as “vulnerable” under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. In Tasmania, the species is considered to be “rare” under the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995, and in South Australia, it is listed as “near threatened” under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972. However, in New South Wales, the shorthead lamprey is not considered to be a threatened species.

Fish Taste Quality

Shorthead lamprey is not a widely consumed or highly valued food fish, and is not typically considered to be of high culinary quality.

Taste Rating: 1/5

How to catch
Shorthead Lamprey

Catch Difficulty: Easy

Tackle: Fish Trap

Bait: Fresh cut flesh baits

Technique: Bait in a fish trap

Popularity: Targeted

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