Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) also known as broadbills are large, highly migratory, predatory fish characterized by a long, flat bill.
They are the sole member of their family Xiphiidae.
They are typically found from near the surface to a depth of about 550 meters (1,800 feet); and have exceptionally been recorded as deep as 2,878 meters (9,442 feet).
The lifespan is about 9 years. The oldest swordfish found in a recent study were a 16-year-old female and 12-year-old male.
These amazing creatures with their sword-like bill are very popular game fish among anglers all around the world. They rank the highest in terms of stamina when compared to other game fish.
Swordfish commonly reach 3 meters (9.8 feet) in length, and the maximum reported is 4.55 meters (14.9 feet) in length and 650 kilograms (1,430 pounds) in weight. Female swordfish grow larger than males.
The International Game Fish Association’s all-tackle angling record for a swordfish was a 536 kilograms (1,182 pounds) specimen taken off Chile in 1953.
The swordfish, an elongated, scaleless fish, has a tall dorsal fin, and a long sword, used in slashing at prey fishes, extends from its snout. The sword is flat, rather than rounded as in marlins and other spear-nosed fishes, and has thus given rise to the name broadbill. The swordfish is also distinguished by its lack of pelvic fins and of teeth.
Swordfish are built for speed with their long bills cutting through the water and their aerodynamic bodies allowing them to reach speeds of up to 97 km/h (60 mph) making them among the fastest fish in the ocean.
While swordfish are cold-blooded animals, they have special organs next to their eyes to heat their eyes and also their brain.
The heating of the eyes greatly improves the vision, and subsequently improves their ability to catch prey.
Contrary to popular belief, the “sword” is not used to spear, but instead may be used to slash at its prey to injure the prey animal, to make for an easier catch.
Swordfish are carnivores and eat a wide range of pelagic fish, such as mackerel, barracudinas, silver hake, rockfish, herring, and lanternfishes, but they also take demersal fish, squid, and crustaceans. Large prey are typically slashed with the sword, while small are swallowed whole.
Swordfish feed daily, most often at night, when they rise to surface and near-surface waters in search of smaller fish.
This highly migratory species typically moves towards colder regions to feed during the summer.
Swordfish are not schooling fish. They swim alone or in very loose aggregations, separated by as much as 10 meters (33 feet) from a neighboring swordfish. They are frequently found basking at the surface, airing their first dorsal fin.
Reproduction occurs by spawning. Swordfish are oviparous, which means that they lay eggs. Female swordfish can lay anywhere between 1,000,000 and 30,000,000 eggs at one time!
Like many open ocean bony fishes, swordfish start out as extremely tiny larvae, no more than a few millimeters long and weighing only a few hundredths of a gram. Soon after hatching, they already have a visible bill. Swordfish grow rapidly, and in the course of their lives they may increase their body weight by at least one million times!
Fully adult swordfish have few natural predators. Among marine mammals, killer whales sometimes prey on adult swordfish. The shortfin mako, an exceptionally fast species of shark, sometimes take on swordfish; dead or dying shortfin makos have been found with broken-off swords in their heads, revealing the danger of this type of prey.
In addition to the role in marine food chains, swordfish are well known for recreational fishing and cuisine, and their beauty, grace, and behavior adds to the mystery and wonder of nature.
Commercially, swordfish were harvested by a variety of methods at small scale until the global expansion of long-line fishing. Longline gear can be targeted to a variety of fish, but bycatch remains a significant problem.
Recreational fishing has developed a subspecialty called swordfishing.
With a dense, meaty texture and mildly sweet flavor, swordfish makes for a hearty meal. It offers an impressive nutritional profile that includes protein, minerals and vitamins. While its nutrient content provides a variety of health benefits, however, you should avoid consuming swordfish as a regular part of your diet because it’s high in mercury.
Since swordfish are large animals, meat is usually sold as steaks, which are often grilled.
Swordfish are listed as of “least concern” on the IUCN Red List.
The swordfish has been used by astronomers as another name for the constellation of Dorado.