Tetrapturus audaxBarred marlin(Also: Marlin; Pacific striped marlin; Spearfish; Spikefish)

Geographic Range

Striped marlin are pelagic billfish native to the Indian and Pacific oceans. They are found in coastal waters offshore of Africa, Mexico, South America, and New Zealand. In North American waters, Striped marlin are most common south of Point Conception, California, but range as far north as Oregon. ("California Department of Fish and Game", 2002)


Striped marlin inhabit pelagic waters and their population density is positively correlated with distance from shore. These fish are generally found in the epipelagic zone. (Goodyear, et al., 2003)

  • Range depth
    0 to 200 m
    0.00 to 656.17 ft

Physical Description

Striped marlin are bony fish that are similar in appearance to sailfish, with a distinguishable difference in the dorsal fin (in Striped marlin the dorsal fin is much smaller and tapers toward the caudle peduncle). With a fusiform-shaped body, striped marlin glide through the water with little resistance. Striped marlin have the thinnest bill amongst all billfishes and slash their prey as opposed to impaling them as other members of the family do. Striped marlin have a distinct color patterning of 10-20 blue bars extending from the head and continuing to the caudal fin. When the fish is excited, the coloration of these bars rapidly changes from blue to lavender via the contraction or expansion of chromatophores (special pigmented cells in the integument). (Luna and Bailly, 2011)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    224 (high) kg
    493.39 (high) lb
  • Range length
    3.35 (high) m
    10.99 (high) ft


After spawning has occurred, fertilized eggs develop into planktonic, lecithotropic larvae that drift for several weeks to months before the larvae develop into small fry. Little is known specifically about the early life stages of this species. (Nakamura, 1985)


Striped marlin form groups and/or schools during their reproductive season. As a broadcast spawning species, males and females potentially have multiple mates. Further information regarding courtship behavior is currently unavailable. (Nakamura, 1985)

Female striped marlin reach sexual maturity at 1.5-2.5 years of age while males reach sexual maturity at 1-2 years of age. Striped marlin reproduce by broadcast spawning (the female releases eggs which are fertilized in the water column). Females may produce 11-29 million eggs annually. (Abitı́a-Cárdenas, et al., 2002)

  • Breeding interval
    Striped marlin spawn annually.
  • Breeding season
    Striped marlin spawn during the months of November and December
  • Range number of offspring
    11 million to 29 million
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1.5 to 2.5 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 to 2 years

Gametes are shed into the water during spawning; there is no further parental care. (Karleskint, et al., 2006)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


Striped marlin live from 8 to 10 years. They are not maintained in captivity. ("California Department of Fish and Game", 2002)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    8 to 10 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    8 to 10 years


The behavior of striped marlin in the Pacific Ocean was analyzed using data from individuals tagged between 2005 and 2008. Indiviuals in the Southwest Pacific Ocean were found on average to swim 200 meters deeper than those in the Central and Eastern Pacific Ocean. Striped marlin found closer to the equator generally swam faster and deeper than conspecifics at higher latitudes. (Sippel, et al., 2011)

Home Range

Striped marlin, like other billfish, range throughout the pelagic zone. They do not maintain a specific home range. (Nakamura, 1985)

Communication and Perception

Striped marlin may communicate visually with conspecifics via use of their chromatophores. Such communication may be used to signal spawning readiness. Like other teleost fishes, striped marlin have olfactory nares to detect chemicals in the water, helping them find mates or prey. They also have large eyes which enable them to hunt at night or at depths with low levels of light. The lateral line, running along the sides of the fish, senses pressure differences and heightens its awareness of its surroundings. (Karleskint, et al., 2006)

Food Habits

Planktonic larvae and small juveniles consume zooplankton. Dietary analysis of adult striped marlin during a yearly cycle in the southern Gulf of California, Mexico, found prey consisting of epipelagic organisms from the neritic and oceanic zones. The most abundant prey noted were chub mackerel (Scomber japonicas), California pilchard (Sardinops sagax) and jumbo squid (Dosidicus gigas). (Abitı́a-Cárdenas, et al., 2002)

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • mollusks
  • other marine invertebrates
  • zooplankton


The only known predators of this species are great white sharks, killer whales, and humans. ("IUCN Red List", 2000)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Striped marlin have an important role in the epipelagic marine food chain as apex predators, helping to regulate the population of cephalopods and fish. Furthermore, this species hosts a number of parasites, including copepods and a variety of flatworm species. (Benz, 2005; Kohn, et al., 2006; Nakamura, 1985)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Gloiopotes huttoni (Subclass Copepoda, Subphylum Crustacea)
  • Pennella filosa (Subclass Copepoda, Subphylum Crustacea)
  • Capsala ovalis (Class Monogenea, Phylum Platyhelminthes)
  • Capsaloides hofmannae (Class Monogenea, Phylum Platyhelminthes)
  • Capsaloides istiophori (Class Monogenea, Phylum Platyhelminthes)
  • Capsaloides sinuatus (Class Monogenea, Phylum Platyhelminthes)
  • Tristomella laevis (Class Monogenea, Phylum Platyhelminthes)
  • Tristomella pricei (Class Monogenea, Phylum Platyhelminthes)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Striped marlin fight when caught by hook and line, providing sport fishermen with recreational opportunities. Catch and release of this species is recommended in waters of the United States. While this species is not usually consumed in the United States, it is considered a delicacy in Asia. ("California Department of Fish and Game", 2002)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of striped marlin on humans, though eating striped marlin and other large predatory fishes may put people at risk of illness due to high levels of mercury retained within the fish's muscle tissue. (Tracey and Solly, 1981)

Conservation Status

It is estimated that populations of striped marlin have declined by 20-25% since the mid 1990s. More detailed and frequent stock assessments in the Indian Ocean as well as the northwest Pacific Ocean need to be conducted to obtain basic biological information on this species for its effective management. ("IUCN Red List", 2000)


Nathaniel Roughton Nicholas Shannon (author), San Diego Mesa College, Paul Detwiler (editor), San Diego Mesa College, Jeremy Wright (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

indeterminate growth

Animals with indeterminate growth continue to grow throughout their lives.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


An aquatic biome consisting of the open ocean, far from land, does not include sea bottom (benthic zone).


an animal that mainly eats fish


an animal that mainly eats plankton


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate


animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)


2002. "California Department of Fish and Game" (On-line). Accessed April 23, 2012 at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mspcont7.asp#marlin.

2000. "IUCN Red List" (On-line). Accessed February 15, 2012 at www.iucnredlist.org.

Abitı́a-Cárdenas, L., A. Muhlia-Melo, V. Cruz-Escalona, F. Galván-Magaña. 2002. Trophic dynamics and seasonal energetics of striped marlin Tetrapturus audax in the Southern Gulf of California, Mexico. Fisheries Research, 57/3: 287-295. Accessed April 14, 2012 at www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165783601003502.

Benz, G. 2005. Taxonomic status of Penicillus Kumar et Hameed, 1993 and its only species, P. indicus Kumar et Hameed, 1993 (Pennellidae, Siphonostomatoida, Copepoda). Acta Ichthyologica et Piscatoria, 35/2: 139-145. Accessed August 05, 2012 at http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=135999.

Goodyear, C., D. Die, D. Kerstetter, D. Olson, E. Prince, G. Scott. 2003. Habitat Standardization of CPUE indices: research needs. ICCAT Collective Volume of Scientific Papers, 55/1: 613-623. Accessed April 08, 2012 at www.iccat.int/Documents/CVSP/CV055_2003/no_2/CV055020613.pdf.

Hyde, L., R. Humphreys Jr., M. Musyl, R. Vetter. 2006. A central north Pacific spawning ground for striped marlin, Tetrapturus audax. Bulletin Marine Science, 79: 683-690. Accessed May 25, 2012 at www.soest.hawaii.edu/PFRP/reprints/hyde_2006.pdf.

Karleskint, G., R. Turner, J. Small. 2006. Introduction to Marine Biology, Third Edition. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Kohn, A., S. Cohen, G. Salgado-Maldonado. 2006. Checklist of Monogenea parasites of freshwater and marine fishes, amphibians and reptiles from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Zootaxa, 1289: 1-114. Accessed August 05, 2012 at http://www.ibiologia.unam.mx/pdf/directorio/s/salgado/monogenea_kohn.pdf.

Luna, S., N. Bailly. 2011. "Kajikia audax (Philippi, 1887) Striped marlin" (On-line). Accessed April 03, 2012 at http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=223&AT=Striped+Marlin.

Nakamura, I. 1985. Billfishes of the World. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed August 05, 2012 at http://www.fao.org/docrep/009/ac480e/ac480e00.htm.

Sippel, T., J. Holdsworth, T. Dennis, J. Montgomery. 2011. Investigating Behaviour and Population Dynamics of Striped Marlin (Kajikia audax) from the Southwest Pacific Ocean with Satellite Tags. PLoS ONE, 6/6: "1-13".

Tracey, D., S. Solly. 1981. Mercury levels in some New Zealand sea fishes. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 15/2: "137-146".

Walker, C. 2010. "Gloiopotes huttoni" (On-line). World Copepods Database. Accessed May 25, 2012 at http://www.marinespecies.org/copepoda/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=358660.