Cockatoo Waspfish, Ablabys taenianotus (Cuvier 1829)

Other Names: Cockatoo Fish, Leaf Fish

A Cockatoo Waspfish, Ablabys taenianotus, in Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi, Indonesia. Source: Andrew J. Green / Reef Life Survey. License: CC BY Attribution

A dark brown to reddish or yellow waspfish with a strongly compressed body, an almost vertical snout, and elevated spines at the front of the dorsal fin. 
Cockatoo Waspfish are masters of disguise, and are seen often rocking back and forth, mimicing leaves moving with the surge. As with other scorpionfish relatives, this species has venomous fin spines.
A pair of Cockatoo Waspfish mimicking dead leaves moving with the surge in Bali, Indonesia.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Ablabys taenianotus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Nov 2018,

Cockatoo Waspfish, Ablabys taenianotus (Cuvier 1829)

More Info


Recorded in Australia from off North West Cape, WA, and Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island, Timor Sea, to Sydney, NSW, also Lord Howe Island and Middleton Reef in the Tasman Sea. Found elsewhere in the tropical, east-Indo-west Pacific.


Dorsal fin XVII-XVIII, 6-7; Anal fin III, 4-5.

Species Citation

Apistus taenianotus Cuvier, 1829, Règne Animal  2: 168. Type locality: Mauritius.


Dianne J. Bray

Cockatoo Waspfish, Ablabys taenianotus (Cuvier 1829)


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

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

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.

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.

Cuvier, G. 1829. Le Règne Animal, distribué d'après son organisation, pour servir de base à l'histoire naturelle des animaux et d'introduction à l'anatomie comparée. Paris : Déterville Vol. 2, Edn 2, i-xv + pp. 1-406.

Francis, M.P. 1991. Additions to the Fish Faunas of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, Southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 45(2): 204-220 figs 1-44

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

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

Larson, H.K., Williams, R.S. & Hammer, M.P. 2013. An annotated checklist of the fishes of the Northern Territory, Australia. Zootaxa 3696(1): 1-293.

Poss, S.G. 1999. Families Scorpaenidae, Caracanthidae, Aploactinidae. pp. 2291-2358 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 4 2069-2790 pp.

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.

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.

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.

Randall, J.E. & Spreinat, A. 2004. The subadult of labrid fish Novaculoides macrolepidotus, a mimic of waspfishes of the genus Ablabys. Aqua, Journal of Ichthyology and Aquatic Biology 8(2): 45-48.

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

Whitley, G.P. 1958. Descriptions and records of fishes. Proceedings of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales 1956–57: 28-51 figs 1-12 [as Amblyapistus (Parocosia) slacksmithi]

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37287031

Danger:Venomous spines

Depth:0-80 m

Habitat:Sandy, rubble, weed areas

Max Size:15 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map