Atlantic blue marlin (Makaira nigricans)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Istiophoriformes
Family: Istiophoridae
Rafinesque, 1810
Type genus

Marlins are fish from the family Istiophoridae, which includes 11  species.


The family's common name is thought to derive from their resemblance to a sailor's marlinspike.[1]


The family name Istiophoridae comes from the genus Istiophorus which first placed the species Istiophorus platypterus by George Kearsley Shaw in 1792 from the Greek word ἱστίον istion meaning "sail" that describes the shape of the species's dorsal fins.[2]: 6 

Family description

Marlins have elongated bodies, a spear-like snout or bill, and a long, rigid dorsal fin which extends forward to form a crest.

Marlins are among the fastest marine swimmers. However, greatly exaggerated speeds are often claimed in popular literature, based on unreliable or outdated reports.[3]

The larger species include the Atlantic blue marlin, Makaira nigricans, which can reach 5 m (16 ft) in length and 820 kg (1,810 lb) in weight[4] and the black marlin, Istiompax indica, which can reach in excess of 5 m (16 ft) in length and 670 kg (1,480 lb) in weight. They are popular sporting fish in tropical areas. The Atlantic blue marlin and the white marlin are endangered owing to overfishing.[5]

Marlins can change colour, lighting up their stripes just before attacking prey.[6]


The marlins are Istiophoriform fish, most closely related to the swordfish (which itself is the sole member of the family Xiphiidae). The carangiformes are believed to be the second-closest clade to marlins. Although previously thought to be closely related to Scombridae, genetic analysis only shows a slight relationship.

Istiophoriform genera and species
Image Genus Living species Common name

black marlin
(Whitley, 1931)
Istiompax indica black marlin

Atlantic sailfish
(Lacépède, 1801)
I. albicans Atlantic sailfish
I. platypterus Indo-Pacific sailfish

Atlantic blue
(Lacépède, 1802)
Makaira nigricans
(Lacepède, 1802)
Atlantic blue marlin
Makaira mazara
(Jordan & Snyder, 1901)
Indo-Pacific blue marlin

white marlin
(Hirasaka & H. Nakamura, 1947)
Kajikia albida
(Poey, 1860)
white marlin
Kajikia audax
(Philippi (Krumweide), 1887)
striped marlin

(Rafinesque, 1810)
Tetrapturus angustirostris
(S. Tanaka (I), 1915)
shortbill spearfish
Tetrapturus belone
(Rafinesque, 1810)
Mediterranean spearfish
Tetrapturus georgii
(R.T. Lowe, 1841)
roundscale spearfish
Tetrapturus pfluegeri
(C. R. Robins & de Sylva, 1963)
longbill spearfish

Timeline of genera


Popular culture

A taxidermied marlin greets visitors to Dare County, North Carolina.

In the Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway's 1952 novel The Old Man and the Sea, the central character of the work is an aged Cuban fisherman who, after 84 days without success on the water, heads out to sea to break his run of bad luck. On the 85th day, Santiago, the old fisherman, hooks a resolute marlin; what follows is a great struggle between man, sea creature, and the elements.

Frederick Forsyth's story "The Emperor", in the collection No Comebacks, tells of a bank manager named Murgatroyd, who catches a marlin and is acknowledged by the islanders of Mauritius as a master fisherman.

A marlin features prominently in the last chapter and climactic scenes of Christina Stead's The Man Who Loved Children. Sam's friend Saul gives Sam a marlin, and Sam makes his children help him render the fish's fat.

The Miami Marlins, a professional baseball team based in Miami, Florida, is named after the fish.

See also


  1. ^ Harper, Douglas (November 2001). "marlin". Online Etymological Dictionary.
  2. ^ Scharpf, Christopher (13 September 2023). "Order CARANGIFORMES". The ETYFish Project. p. 1–19. Retrieved 18 December 2023.
  3. ^ Svendsen, Morten B.S.; Domenici, Paolo; Marras, Stefano; Krause, Jens; Boswell, Kevin M.; Rodriguez-Pinto, Ivan; et al. (2016-10-15). "Maximum swimming speeds of sailfish and three other large marine predatory fish species based on muscle contraction time and stride length: a myth revisited". Biology Open. 5 (10): 1415–1419. doi:10.1242/bio.019919. ISSN 2046-6390. PMC 5087677. PMID 27543056.
  4. ^ "Makaira nigricans, blue marlin". fisheries, gamefish. FishBase.
  5. ^ "Tunas and marlins officially classified as threatened". Smithsonian Ocean. Smithsonian Institution – via
  6. ^ "Marlin use their surprising superpower to attack other fish". The Telegraph. Retrieved 9 March 2024.

Further reading