Prickly Toadfish 

Contusus brevicaudus Hardy, 1981

View scientific description and taxonomy

Scientific Details

Dorsal fin spines/rays: 9-11
Anal fin spines/rays: 8-9
Caudal fin rays: 11
Pectoral fin rays: 13-15

Interpreting fin count meristics.
Spines are in Roman numerals and soft rays are in Arabic numerals. Spines and rays that are continuous in one fin are separated by a comma. Fin sections are separated by semicolons.

Detailed descriptions of fin count and other meristics are in:
Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds) (2008) Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Order level detail.
The Tetraodontiformes is a very diverse and specialized group of bony fishes that share the loss, reduction or fusion of many bony structures in the head and body. Fins and their supporting elements are reduced or lost, and vertebrae are reduced in number. They have small mouths with modified teeth that may be enlarged or fused into a beak-like structure, or incorporated into the jaw bones. The gill opening is reduced to a small slit near the pectoral-fin base, and most have thick skin, covered in scales that are modified into spines, ossicles or fused bony plates. Some groups are poisonous, and the puffers and porcupinefishes are highly inflatable. Puffers adn their allies are found worldwide in temperate and tropical seas, and a few species enter freshwaters.

Family level detail.
The family Tetraodontidae is a large group of poisonous fishes with robust, oval-shaped bodies with often covered in small modified scales with spines and prickles sometimes embedded in the skins. They have short-based dorsal and anal fins set far back on the body and have tooth, or beak-like structures in their jaws. They lack a pelvis and fin spines. Puffers defend themselves by inflating their stomachs with water to greatly increase their size, also making the bristly scales stand out from the body.

Some pufferfishes are extremely poisonous, concentrating highly poisonous toxin in their internal organs, but also sometimes in the skin and blood. Although many people have died from eating pufferfishes around the world, the flesh of some species is considered a delicacy in east Asia where it is carefully prepared in specially licensed restaurants. Some species can also discharge the toxin into the water to repel predators.



General Description

Body robust, somewhat rounded, densely covered by small spines that extend onto tail base; dorsal and anal fins reaching or almost reaching tail base; lower edge of eye well above pectoral-fin base. Pale grey to yellowish above, with indistinct grey to medium brown spots on back and upper sides behind pectoral-fin base; light grey on top of head to upper lip and down both sides of eye, sometimes merging on cheek; no spots on belly. To 25 cm.


On sandy bottoms and in seagrass beds in bays, estuaries and along the coast, in depths of 0-20 m.

Soft substrates

Seagrass meadows

Distribution guide

Southern Australia.

Species Group

Fishes Puffers and toadies


Shore (0-1 m)
Shallow (1-30 m)

Water Column

On or near sea floor

Max Size

25 cm


Poisonous toxins in body.

Commercial Species


Global Dispersal

Native to Australia

Conservation Status

  • DSE Advisory List : Not listed
  • EPBC Act 1999 : Not listed
  • IUCN Red List : Not listed


article author Bray, D.J.

Di Bray is a Senior Collection Manager of ichthyology at Museum Victoria.


article author Gomon, M.F.

Dr. Martin Gomon is a Senior Curator of ichthyology at Museum Victoria.


Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Gomon, M.F., 2011, Prickly Toadfish, Contusus brevicaudus, in Taxonomic Toolkit for marine life of Port Phillip Bay, Museum Victoria, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

Text: creative commons cc by licence