Familia Belonidae


by B. B. Collette and N. V. Parin

Body elongate, almost round or laterally compressed in cross-section. Both upper and lower jaws extended into long beaks with sharp teeth. Lower pharyngeal bones fused into a triangular plate; third pair of upper pharyngeal bones separate. Nasal organ as a pit with protruding tentacle. No spines in fins; dorsal and anal fins posterior in position; pelvic fins abdominal, with 6 soft rays; pectoral fins high on sides, short; caudal fin forked or emarginate. Lateral line beginning on throat, then running along ventral margin of body, with a branch to pectoral fin origin. Scales small, cycloid, easily detached.
Epipelagic; most species are marine but some occur in freshwaters. Carnivorous, feeding largely on small fishes which they catch sideways in their beaks. Eggs have sticky filaments which attach to floating or anchored vegetation; larvae are pelagic. Needlefishes tend to leap and skitter at the surface; at night they are attracted by lights.

Genera 10; in Clofnam area 3.

Recent revision: Collette and Parin (1970 eastern Atlantic species).