Bullethead Parrotfish, Chlorurus spilurus (Valenciennes 1840)

A Bullethead Parrotfish, Chlorurus spilurus, in the Ningaloo Marine Park, Western Australia, 1 August 2015. Source: John Turnbull / Flickr. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike

In Australia, the Bullethead Parrotfish was previously called Chlorurus sordidus, a species that occurs in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, including the Australian territories of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean.

Video of a huge school of Bullethead Parrotfish in Kane'ohe Bay, Hawaii.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Chlorurus spilurus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 Jun 2018, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/5300

Bullethead Parrotfish, Chlorurus spilurus (Valenciennes 1840)

More Info


Rottnest Island to offshore reefs of north Western Australia, Ashmore Reef, Timor Sea, and the northern Great Barrier Reef to southern Queensland, and reefs in the Coral Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the East-Indo-west-central Pacific.


Population genetic studies have shown that what had previously been called Chlorurus sordidus, is a complex of two or more cryptic species, and that C. spilurus is the correct name for the Bullethead Parrotfish in Australian waters - excluding the territories of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

Species Citation

Scarus spilurus Valenciennes in Cuvier & Valenciennes 1840, Histoire naturelle des poissons 14: 279. Type locality: Caroline Islands, western Pacific.


Bray, D.J. 2017


Australian Faunal Directory

Bullethead Parrotfish, Chlorurus spilurus (Valenciennes 1840)


Allen, G.R. 1993. Fishes of Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 44: 67-91 (as Scarus sordidus

Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls. (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Allen, G.R., Cross, N.J. & Allen, C.J. 2006. Scarinae. pp. 1425-1434 in Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & Allen, G.R. Fishes. In, Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Vol. 35. Volume 35 Australia : ABRS & CSIRO Publishing Parts 1-3, 2178 pp. (as Chlorurus sordidus

Allen, G.R., Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Randall, J.E., Russell, B.C., Starck, W.A., Talbot, F.H. & Whitley, G.P. 1976. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30(15): 365-454 figs 1-2 (as Scarus sordidus

Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls. (as Scarus sordidus

Bay, L.K., Choat, J.H., van Herwerden, L. & Robertson, D.R. 2004. High genetic diversities and complex genetic structure in an Indo-Pacific tropical reef fish (Chlorurus sordidus): evidence of an unstable evolutionary past? Marine Biology 144: 757-767.

Beck, E. 2013. Comparative phylogeography of four Indo–Pacific scarine labrids: an insight into the evolutionary patterns of reef fish. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

Bellwood, D.R. 1985. The functional morphology, systematics and behavioural ecology of parrotfishes (Family Scaridae), Ph.D. thesis, James Cook University, Townsville. 

Bellwood, D.R. 1985. The functional morphology, systematics and behavioural ecology of parrotfishes (Family Scaridae), Ph.D. thesis, James Cook University, Townsville, 139 pp. PDF  (as Chlorurus sordidus

Bellwood, D.R. 1988. Ontogenetic changes in the diet of early post-settlement Scarus species (Pisces: Scaridae). Journal of Fish Biology 33: 213-219 (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Bellwood, D.R. 1995. Carbonate transport and within-reef patterns of bioerosion and sediment release by parrotfishes (family Scaridae) on the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 117: 127-136 (as Chlorurus sordidus). 

Bellwood, D.R. 1996. Production and reworking of sediment by parrotfishes (family Scaridae) on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Marine Biology. 125: 795-800 (as Chlorurus sordidus). 

Bellwood, D.R. & Choat, J.H. 1989. A description of the juvenile phase colour patterns of 24 parrotfish species (Family Scaridae) from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Records of the Australian Museum 41: 1-41 (as Chlorurus sordidus). 

Bellwood, D.R. & Choat, J.H. 1990. A functional analysis of grazing in parrotfishes (family Scaridae): the ecological implications, Environmental Biology of Fishes 28: 189-214 (as Chlorurus sordidus). 

Bellwood, D.R. & Fulton, C.J. 2008. Sediment-mediated suppression of herbivory on coral reefs: decreasing resilience to rising sea levels and climate change? Limnology and Oceanography 53: 2695-2701 (as Chlorurus sordidus). 

Bonaldo, R.M. 2011. The ecosystem role of parrotfishes on coral reefs, PhD thesis, James Cook University. 

Brandl, S.J. & Bellwood, D.R. 2013. Morphology, sociality, and ecology: can morphology predict pairing behavior in coral reef fishes? Coral Reefs 32: 835-836.  

Caley, M.J. 1995. Reef fish community structure and dynamics: in interaction between local and larger-scale processes? Marine Ecology Progress Series 129: 19-29 (as Chlorurus sordidus).
Chen, L.-S. 2002. Post-settlement diet shift of Chlorurus sordidus and Scarus schlegeli (Pisces: Scaridae), Zoological Studies 41: 47-58. 

Choat, J.H., Axe, L.M. & Lou, D.C. 1996. Growth and longevity in fishes of the family Scaridae. Marine Ecology Progress Series 145: 33-41 (as Chlorurus sordidus). 

Choat, J.H., Carpenter, K.E., Clements, K.D., Rocha, L.A., Russell, B., Myers, R., Lazuardi, M.E., Muljadi, A., Pardede, S. & Rahardjo, P. 2012. Chlorurus spilurus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T190727A17783061. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2012.RLTS.T190727A17783061.en. Downloaded on 14 August 2016.

Choat, J.H., Clements, K.D. & Robbins, W.D. 2002. The tropic status of herbivorous fishes on coral reefs. 1. Dietary analyses, Marine Biology 140: 613-623 (as Chlorurus sordidus).

Choat, J.H., Klanten, O.S., van Herwerden, L., Robertson, D.R. & Clements, K.D. 2012. Patterns and processes in the evolutionary history of parrotfishes (Family Labridae)., Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 107: 529-557. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8312.2012.01959.x PDF available - open access

Choat, J.H. & Randall, J.E. 1986. A review of the parrotfishes (Family Scaridae) of the Great Barrier Reef of Australia with description of a new species. Records of the Australian Museum 38: 175-228. (as Scarus sordidus

Choat, J.H., van Herwerden, L., Robbins, W.D., Hobbs, J.P. & Ayling, A.M. 2006. A report on the ecological surveys undertaken at Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs, February 2006. Report by James Cook University to the Department of the Environment and Heritage. 65 pp. (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Crook, A.C. 1997. Behavioural patterns and the significance of colour patterns in reef fishes of the family Scaridae, Ph.D. thesis, James Cook University, Townsville (as Chlorurus sordidus).  

Crook, A.C. 1997. Colour patterns in a coral reef fish: is background complexity important?, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 217: 237-252 (as Chlorurus sordidus).  

Crook, A.C. 1997. Determinants of the physiological colour patterns of juvenile parrotfish, Chlorurus sordidus. Animal Behaviour 53: 1251-1261. 

Crook, A.C. 1999. Quantitative evidence for assortative schooling in a coral reef fish, Marine Ecology Progress Series 176: 17-23 (as Chlorurus sordidus). 

Crook, A.C. 1999. A quantitative analysis of the relationship between interspecific encounters, schooling behaviour and colouration in juvenile parrotfish (family Scaridae), Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology 33: 1-19 (as Chlorurus sordidus). 

Dudgeon, C.L., Gust, N. & Blair, D. 2000. No apparent genetic basis to demographic differences in scarid fishes across continental shelf of the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Biology 137: 1059-1066 (as Chlorurus sordidus). 

Francis, M. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 136-170 figs 1-2 (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Gill, A.C. & Reader, S.E. 1992. Fishes. pp. 90-93, 193-228 in Hutchings, P. (ed.). Reef Biology. A Survey of Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, South Pacific. Canberra : Australian National Parks Vol. 3, Kowari 230 pp. (as Chlorurus sordidus

Grutter, A.S., Rumney, J.G., Sinclair-Taylor, T., Waldie, P. & Franklin, C.E. 2010. Fish mucous cocoons: the 'mosquito nets' of the sea, Biology Letters, doi: 10.1098: rsbl20100916. (as Chlorurus sordidus

Gust, N. 2002. Scarid biomass on the northern Great Barrier Reef: the influence of exposure, depth and substrata, Environmental Biology of Fishes 64: 353-366. (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Hoey, A.S. 2010. The ecosystem role of macroalgal browsing fishes on coral reefs., PhD thesis, James Cook University. (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Hoey, A.S. & Bellwood, D.R. 2008. Cross-shelf variation in the role of parrotfishes on the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Reefs 27: 37-47. (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Hutchins, B. 2004. Fishes of the Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 66: 343–398 (as Chlorurus sordidus

Hutchins, J.B. 1994. A survey of the nearshore reef fish fauna of Western Australia's west and south coasts — The Leeuwin Province. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 46: 1-66 figs 1-6 (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Hutchins, J.B. 1997. Checklist of fishes of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia. pp. 239-253 in Wells, F. (ed.) The Marine Fauna and Flora of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum. (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Hutchins, J.B. & Thompson, M. 1983. The Marine and Estuarine Fishes of South-western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 103 pp. 345 figs. (as Scarus sordidus

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3) (as Chlorurus sordidus

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp. (as Scarus sordidus

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press 707 pp. (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Randall, J.E. 2010. Shore Fishes of Hawaii: Revised Ed. University of Hawai'I Press, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A, 240 pp.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs. (as Scarus sordidus

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs. (as Chlorurus sordidus

Russell, B.C. 1983. Annotated checklist of the coral reef fishes in the Capricorn-Bunker group, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Special Publication Series 1: 1-184 figs 1-2 (as Scarus sordidus

Smith, L.L., Fessler, J.L., Alfaro, M.E., Streelman, J.T. & Westneat, M.W. 2008. Phylogenetic relationships and the evolution of regulatory gene sequences in the parrotfishes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 49: 136-152 (as Chlorurus sordidus).

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37386030


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-30 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:37 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map