No pelvic fins; very long continuous dorsal fin extending from head to tail (connected with or free from caudal fin), with 19-25 spines and 7-17 soft rays; anal fin with 5-11 spines and 3-7 soft rays; pectoral fin with eight rays; all fin rays unbranched; body scaleless (smooth or with tubercles or papillae); fleshy extension on the anterior isthmus; suborbital stay absent; vertebrae 34-44. Maximum length 30 cm. The modifier "Australian" has been added to the common name of the family in order to avoid confusion with the northern prowfish, a zaprorid.
Mandrytsa (2001) placed this family in the Perciformes, in its own suborder Pataecoidei.
Three genera, each probably monotypic, Aetapcus, Neopataecus, and Pataecus, with three species.
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