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Greenland halibut Reinhardtius hippoglossoides (Walbaum) 1792


[Jordan and Evermann, 1896-1900, p. 2611.]

Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides)

Figure 127.—Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides). From Goode. Drawing by H. L. Todd.


This is a right-handed, large-mouthed flatfish (that is, it lies on its left side, with its eyes on its right side, and its abdomen at its right edge), with slightly concave tail, and symmetrical ventral fins like a halibut. In fact it so closely resembles the halibut that it might easily be taken for one were it not that its lateral line is nearly straight abreast of the pectoral fin, (arched in the halibut) and that its long fins (dorsal and anal) are of rather different shape (compare fig. 127 with fig. 123), though with about the same number of rays (about 100 dorsal and [page 259] 75 anal). Its mouth, furthermore, is larger, its eyes smaller relatively and its jaw teeth stronger, though the differences in these respects are not great enough to serve as useful field marks. It is yellowish or grayish brown, paler below than above but not white.


This is one of the largest of the North Atlantic flatfishes, next to the halibut, growing to a length of about 40 inches and to a weight of 20 to 25 pounds. But fish caught about the Grand Banks weigh only from about 5 to 10 pounds.

General range and occurrence in the Gulf of Maine—

This is a fish of the Arctic and subarctic Atlantic. It is taken from northern Norway and northern Iceland to the Faroe ridge, and to southwest of Iceland[72] as a stray. It supports a fishery off west Greenland that is important for the Eskimos.[73] In the west considerable numbers are taken off the south coast of Newfoundland,[74] also on the Grand Banks hence it is to be expected along outer Labrador, though it has not been reported thence as yet. Odd specimens are to be expected here and there in the Gulf of St. Lawrence too, for it has been taken near the Biological Station at Trois Pistoles.[75]

It is described as "not uncommon" off Canso, Nova Scotia,[76] and as occasionally brought in from the more northerly of the Nova Scotian fishing banks long ago.[77]

Our only reason for mentioning it here is Goode and Bean's[78] statement that "fishermen take them frequently in the gully between La Have and Georges Bank at depths greater than 200 fathoms." This has been corroborated by the capture of 16 specimens, at 300 to 530 fathoms, along the slope of La Have Bank to the southwestern slope of Georges Bank by the Cap'n Bill II, in July 1952. It has no real place in the Gulf of Maine fish fauna.

[72] Norman (Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist., ser. 9, vol. 13, p. 539) reports a single specimen taken southwest of Iceland.

[73] See Jensen (Meddel. Dansk. Komm. Havundersøgelser, Ser. Fiskeri, vol. 7, No. 7, 1927) for a general account of the Greenland halibut off west Greenland.

[74] According to Goode (Fish. Ind. U. S., Sect. 1, 1884, p. 198) long liners have reported it as "very abundant" in and off Fortune Bay, in 60 to 300 fathoms.

[75] Vladykov and Tremblay, Natural. Canad., vol. 62 (Ser. 3, vol. 6), 1935, p. 82.

[76] Cornish, Contrib. Canadian Biol. (1902-1905) 1907, p. 90.

[77] Jones, Proc. Trans. Nova Scotia Inst., Sci., vol. 5, Pt. 1, 1879, p. 92.

[78] Amer. Jour. Sci. Arts, Ser. 3, vol. 17, 1879, p. 40.