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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Plownose Chimaera Callorhinchus milii

The plownose chimaera is also known as the elephant fish due to its most distinctive feature, a long, fleshy snout. The plownose uses this bizarre appendage to snuffle through mud of the ocean floor in search of shellfish, which it crunches up using its plate-like teeth. A network of prominent sensory canals crisscrosses its head. In spring, these fish come inshore into estuaries and bays to breed, and lay their eggs in horny, yellow-brown capsules. This chimaera is fished commercially for food.

Reproductive embrace

Mating underwater is a slippery business, so the male plownose chimaera has a retractable, clublike, spiny clasper on its head that helps it hang onto the female. The male transfers his sperm when he inserts his pelvic clasper into the female’s cloaca.

Plownose Chimaera habitat mapzoom image
  • Order Chimaeriformes
  • Length Up to about 4 ft (1.3 m)
  • Weight Not recorded
  • Depth At least 750 ft (230 m)
  • Distribution Temperate waters in the southwest Pacific, off southern Australia and along the east coast of South Island, New Zealand