Unicorn Whiptail

Trachyrincus Longirostris
Unicorn Whiptail - Marinewise © 2023 MarineWise

Quick Facts

Scientific name Trachyrincus Longirostris
Other names Unicorn Rattail, White Whiptail
Size Up to 60 cm (23.62 in)
Weight Under 1.25 kg (2.75 lb)


Habitat & AU Distribution Deepsea waters amongst soft bottom areas on the continental slope
Depth Range 200 - 1,000 m (3,280 ft)
Unicorn Whiptail Distribution

Interesting Info

  • The Unicorn Whiptail can be found in various regions around Australia, including the deep sea waters of South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, and New South Wales.
  • The Unicorn Whiptail possesses a long, slender snout, which aids in capturing prey in its deep-sea environment. They have a slender body shape with a long, whip-like tail, which gives them their distinctive name. Their bodies are typically silver or light brown in colour.
  • They are carnivores, equipped with sharp teeth and a protrusible jaw that allows it to consume a variety of small fish and invertebrates.
  • Like many deep-sea fish, the Unicorn Whiptail exhibits bioluminescent properties. It produces its own light through specialised organs known as photophores, which are scattered along its body. These photophores help with camouflage, communication, and attracting prey.
  • The deep-sea habitat where the Unicorn Whiptail resides is characterised by extreme conditions such as cold temperatures, high pressure, and low light levels. These adaptations enable the fish to survive and thrive in such environments.
  • They have evolved specialised sensory systems to navigate its dark and deep habitat. It relies on a combination of vision, smell, and lateral line sensory organs to detect and locate prey and navigate through the water column.
  • Breeding habits of the Unicorn Whiptail are not well-documented, but it is believed that they spawn during the warmer months, typically from late spring to early summer. They are likely to engage in pelagic spawning, releasing eggs and sperm into the water column.
  • They have an estimated lifespan between 15 – 20 years.
Species Interaction

Commercial Fishing, Elusive Species

The Unicorn Whiptail is not a target species for recreational or commercial fishing, it can occasionally be incidentally caught as bycatch in deep-sea fishing operations. Bycatch refers to the unintended capture of non-target species while fishing for other commercially valuable species. Due to the species’ deep-sea habitat, limited commercial value, and restricted range, direct human interactions with them are infrequent.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Actinopterygii

Order: Gadiformes

Family: Trachyrincidae

Genus: Trachyrincus

Species: Trachyrincus Longirostris

Conservation Status

In Australia, the conservation status of the Unicorn Whiptail is classified as “Least Concern” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This indicates that the species is not currently facing significant threats or population decline.

How to catch
Unicorn Whiptail

Catch Difficulty: NA

Tackle: NA

Bait: NA

Technique: NA

Popularity: Not targeted - Commercial fishing bycatch

Elusive / Overlooked Species

Finding: Difficult

Temperament: Shy

Location: Deepsea

Danger: None

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