Softhead grenadier (Malacocephalus laevis)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



The softhead grenadier Malacocephalus laevis can reach up to 60 cm in length. It has a large head about 20% of the body length. The snout is short and blunt. The mouth is large and subterminal. A long chin barbel is present. Its relatively short trunk tapers evenly to a pointed tail. It has a tall truncate first dorsal fin, and small, continuous second dorsal and anal fins. The softhead grenadier is greyish brown in colour with a white mouth.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Found in the northern North Sea as far north as the Shetland Islands, as well as off south-west England, off the western coasts of Ireland and off north-west Scotland.

Global distribution

Recorded along the north-east and south-east coasts of the Atlantic, with scattered records on the western Atlantic coasts and across the Pacific with further records in Australasia.


The softhead grenadier is a deep-sea benthopelagic species usually found at depths of several hundred metres.

Depth range

200 - 1000 m

Identifying features

  • Up to 60 cm in length.
  • Large head up to 20% of body length.
  • Short, blunt snout less than eye diameter in length.
  • Chin barbel over half of the eye diameter in size.
  • Two rows of teeth in upper jaw.
  • Anal fin commences in line with the posterior of the first dorsal.

Additional information

Juveniles have a pattern of large spots on a light background (Whitehead et al., 1986).

Listed by

- none -


  1. Cohen, D.M., Inada, T., Iwamoto, T. & Scialabba, N., 1990. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 10. Gadiform Fishes of the World. An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of Cods, Hakes, Grenadiers and Other Gadiform Fishes Known to Date. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Fisheries Synopsies, 125

  2. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).


  1. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  2. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-07-14


This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Malacocephalus laevis Softhead grenadier. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 14-07-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 12/05/2008