Diamond Mullet, Liza alata (Steindachner 1892)

Other Names: Basket Mullet, Ord River Mullet

Diamond Mullet, Liza alata. Source: Sabine Hoeng. License: All rights reserved

A silvery-grey mullet, paler below, with a horizontal white streak on scales, dark grey to black pelvic fins with a yellow or orange outer margin, and a yellow iris. 
Video of Diamond Mullet (as Liza ordensis, a synonym)

Cite this page as:
Martin F. Gomon & Dianne J. Bray, Liza alata in Fishes of Australia, accessed 20 Jan 2019, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/4537

Diamond Mullet, Liza alata (Steindachner 1892)

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Distributed in northern Australia from Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia, to at least Townsville, Queensland, and possibly south to northern New South Wales, and elsewhere in the west-central Pacific. Inhabits inshore areas including estuaries, and individuals frequently occur well upstream in major rivers of northern Australia.


Dorsal fin IV + i, 8; Anal fin III, 9; Pectoral fin 16-17; Gill rakers 64-79.
Body elongate, robust; head broad, pointed; interorbital slightly convex, less than twice eye diameter in small fishes, but greater large; eye diameter less than snout, greater in large; mouth corner on vertical from anterior nostril, tip of upper jaw reaching vertical from posterior nostril. 3-5 rows of unicuspid teeth in upper lip; lower edentate but with broad low papillae with long axes perpendicular to lip edge at inner base of lip; no teeth on palatine, but teeth on vomer, pterygoids and high-keeled tongue; anterior nostril entirely within vertical span of posterior nostril; posterior nostril nearer eye than anterior to lip; gill rakers short.
Head scale-free to anterior nostrils; 30 or 31 mid-lateral scales.
Pectoral fin reaching anterior half of eye when laid forward, dorsal ray of pectoral fins developed as a short spur or ‘spine’ (not a true spine); ventral fin origin nearer vertical from first dorsal fin origin than to that from pectoral fin origin; first dorsal fin origin nearer snout tip than to caudal base; 1st dorsal spine shorter than 2nd, 4th dorsal spine weak; second dorsal fin origin at vertical around1/3 along anal fin base; tips of anterior rays reaching behind tips of posterior rays; anal and second dorsal fins subequal, but first dorsal fin lower; second dorsal and anal fins falcate, densely scaled. Caudal fin forked, falcate.


Silvery-grey, darker dorsally; scales with a horizontal white streak; ventral fins dark grey or black with yellow or orange outer margin; eye yellow.


Grazes on fine algae and diatoms as well as consuming large amounts of detritus. Teeth and lips are specialised for scraping fine layers of algae off gravel, submerged logs and aquatic plants in addition to bottom sediments.


Breeds in estuaries, spawning large numbers of tiny free-floating eggs; likely to participate in group spawning.


Considerable confusion exists over the names of Liza alata, Liza tade and Liza ordensis. Thompson (1954) regarded Liza alata as a senior synonym of Liza ordensis. Larson et al. (2013) recognised the species as distinct based on molecular studies of Durand et al. (2012a). However, Durand et al. (2012b) stated that ordensis was a synonym of alata and placed the species in the genus Planiliza. Durand & Borsa (2015) consider Planiliza ordensis to be a valid species.

Species Citation

Mugil alatus Steindachner 1892, Akad. Wissensch. Wien 59(1): 364. Type locality: Madagascar rivers and Antananarivo Bay, Madagascar.


Martin F. Gomon & Dianne J. Bray


Australian Faunal Directory

Diamond Mullet, Liza alata (Steindachner 1892)


Allen, G.R. 1991. Field guide to the freshwater fishes of New Guinea. Publication No. 9 of the Christensen Research Institute, Madang, Papua New Guinea. Pls. 1-18: 1-268.

Durand, J.-D. & Borsa, P. 2015. Mitochondrial phylogeny of grey mullets (Acanthopterygii: Mugilidae) suggests high proportion of cryptic species. Comptes Rendus Biologies 338(4): 266-277. (consider Planiliza ordensis to be a valid species) Abstract

Durand, D., Shen, K.-N., Chen, W.-J., Jamandre, B.W., Blel, H., Diop, K., Nirchio, M., Garcia de León, F.J., Whitfield, A.K., Chang, C.-W. & Borsa, P. 2012a. Systematics of the grey mullets (Teleostei: Mugiliformes: Mugilidae): Molecular phylogenetic evidence challenges two centuries of morphology-based taxonomy. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 64(1): 73-92. (as Liza ordensis)

Durand, J.-D., Chen, W.-J., Shen, K.-N., Fu, C. & Borsa, P. 2012b. Genus-level taxonomic changes implied by the mitochondrial phylogeny of grey mullets (Teleostei: Mugilidae). Comptes Rendus Biologies 335: 687-697. 

Harrison, I.J. & Senou, H. 1999. Order Mugiliformes. pp. 2069-2790 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 pp. 2069-2790.

Larson, H.K. & Martin, K.C. 1990. Freshwater Fishes of the Northern Territory. Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences Handbook Series Number 1.  Darwin : Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences 102 pp. 73 figs

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 (as Liza ordensis)

Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management.  Sydney : J.R. Merrick 409 pp. figs 280 col. figs (p. 272, as Liza diadema)

Morgan, D.L., M.G. Allen, P. Bedford & M. Horstman, 2004. Fish fauna of the Fitzroy River in the Kimberley region of Western Australia - including the Bunuba, Gooniyandi, Ngarinyin, Nyikina and Walmajarri Aboriginal names. Rec. West. Aust. Mus. 22: 147-161.

Steindachner, F. 1892. Über einige neue und seltene Fischarten aus der ichthyologischen sammlung des k. k. naturhistorischen Hofmuseums. Denkschriften der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien, Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Classe 59 (1): 357-384, Pls. 1-6.

Thomson, J.M. 1997. The Mugilidae of the world. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 41(3): 457–562.

Whitley, G.P. 1945. New sharks and fishes from Western Australia. Part 2. The Australian Zoologist 11(1): 1-42 figs 1-15 (as Moolgarda (Planiliza) ordensis)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37381014

Habitat:Coastal marine, estuaries (enters FW)

Max Size:75 cm TL

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