Blackmargin Maori Wrasse, Oxycheilinus nigromarginatus Randall, Westneat & Gomon 2003

A Blackmargin Maori Wrasse, Oxycheilinus nigromarginatus, in the SW Pacific - screenshot from a video. Source: Josh Jensen, Undersea Productions / EOL. License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial

A reddish maori wrasse with five narrow pale bars along the upper side, paler red lower sides with three pale stripes comprised of small white spots, a broad dark margin on the caudal fin that is broader in males than females, and a dusky membrane on first dorsal fin.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Oxycheilinus nigromarginatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Jul 2024,

Blackmargin Maori Wrasse, Oxycheilinus nigromarginatus Randall, Westneat & Gomon 2003

More Info


Recorded in Australia from reefs in the Coral Sea (recorded from Herald Cays, Marion Reef and outside the outer barrier east of Hinchinbrook Island), and Sydney Harbour, New South Wales. Elsewhere the species occurs in the Southwest Pacific: Coral Sea, New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga.
Inhabits lagoons or harbours preferring mixed sand and coral reef habitats.


Dorsal fin IX, 10; Anal fin III, 8; Pectoral fin 13; Gill rakers 5-6 + 8-9; Lateral-line interrupted, with pored scales to caudal-fin base 15+6; Vertebrae: 23.
Body moderately elongate, depth 3.1-3.55 in SL; head length 2.45-2.55 in SL; snout long and pointed, 2.6-2.8 in head; dorsal profile of snout straight or with a slight concavity of snout to above eye; lower jaw slightly projecting; maxilla reaching or nearly reaching a vertical at anterior margin of orbit.
Caudal fin of females slightly rounded, the upper 3 principal rays slightly prolonged; fin of males rhomboid with the upper 3 rays more strongly projecting; pectoral fins 2.6-2.95 in head length.


Red in life on about upper half of body with five irregular pale bars, pale red on lower half with three pale stripes containing small white spots; posterior edge of caudal fin blackish to black.


Protogynous hermaphrodites - changing sex from female to male during their life cycle.

Similar Species

Oxycheilinus nigromarginatus is similar to O. orientalis in having a slender body, a pointed snout with a projecting lower jaw, a similar caudal-fin shape, interspinous membranes of dorsal fin incised in females but extending to spine tips in males, and in being red with five narrow whitish bars on upper half of body (bars less distinct in O. orientalis, especially in males), two small deep red  midlateral spots posteriorly, becoming dusky in males, a black area posteriorly on the eye (more readily seen by rotating the eyeball forward), and white lines ventrally on the head (or in the case of the male O. nigromarginatus, of pale orange lines). O. orientalis differs in having a large black blotch usually present in the shoulder region of adults; and lacking a black posterior margin on the caudal fin, three longitudinal series of white spots ventrally on the body, and white dots on postorbital head except for a few on the nape sometimes extending onto upper part of the gill cover


The specific name nigromarginatus is from Latin meaning 'black-margined', in reference to the conspicuous black margin on the caudal fin of adults.

Species Citation

Oxycheilinus nigromarginatus Randall, Westneat & Gomon 2003, Proc. Cal. Acad. Sci. 54(20): 365, pl. 1(C-E).Type locality: Chesterfield Bank, southeast end of lagoon, Coral Sea, 19°53.5'S, 158°28.2'E, depth 10 m.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Blackmargin Maori Wrasse, Oxycheilinus nigromarginatus Randall, Westneat & Gomon 2003


Fricke, R., Kulbicki, M. & Wantiez, L. 2011. Checklist of the fishes of New Caledonia, and their distribution in the Southwest Pacific Ocean (Pisces). Stuttgarter Beiträge zur Naturkunde A, Neue Serie 4:341-463.

Fukui, Y., Nozomu Muto, N. & Motomura, H. 2017. A new species of labrid fish Oxycheilinus samurai from the western Pacific Ocean. Ichthyological Research 64(2): 212-220. DOI: 10.1007/s10228-016-0561-4 Open access

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp. (p, 294, as Cheilinus sp.)

Kuiter, R.H. 2010. Labridae fishes: wrasses. Seaford, Victoria, Australia : Aquatic Photographics 398 pp. (as Cheilinus nigromarginatus)

Liu, M. & To, A. 2010. Oxycheilinus nigromarginatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T187577A8573254. Downloaded on 03 June 2020.

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii. 720 pp.

Randall, J.E., Westneat, M.W. & Gomon, M.F. 2003. Two new labrid fishes of the genus Oxycheilinus from the South Pacific. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 54(20): 361-370. See ref at BHL

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37384069

Conservation:IUCN Data Deficient

Depth:10-128 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:16 cm

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CAAB distribution map