Spotcheek Emperor, Lethrinus rubrioperculatus Sato 1978

Other Names: Red-eared Emperor, Red-ears, Red-edged Emperor, Scarlet-cheek Emperor, Spot Cheek Emperor

A Spotcheek Emperor, Lethrinus rubrioperculatus, at Komodo, Indonesia, August 2015. Source: Mark Rosenstein / License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

A relatively slender olive grey to brown emperor with small scattered irregular black blotches, red lips, a red spot on the upper edge of the gill cover, and pale pinkish to reddish-orange fins.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Lethrinus rubrioperculatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

Spotcheek Emperor, Lethrinus rubrioperculatus Sato 1978

More Info


Ningaloo Reef and offshore reefs of north Western Australia, Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, southeast of Troubadour Shoals, Timor Sea, Northern Territory, and the far northern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, to at least the Solitary Islands, New South Wales; also the Lord Howe Province in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, Indo-west-central Pacific from East Africa, the Seychelles, Madagascar and the western Mascarenes east to Wake Atoll, the Marshall Islands and Marquesas Islands, north to southern Japan, and south to New Caledonia and Tonga.
Inhabits sand and rubble areas on outer reef slopes.


Dorsal fin X, 9; Anal fin III, 8; Pectoral fin 13; Lateral-line scales 47-49.
Body moderately elongate, depth 3-3.4 in SL; head length 1.1-1.3 in body depth, 2.6-3 times in SL; dorsal profile near eye convex without a distinct hump; snout length 1.8-2.1 in HL, dorsal profile nearly straight or slightly concave, snout angle relative to upper jaw between 54° and 65°; interorbital space flat or slightly convex; posterior nostril a longitudinal oblong opening, closer to orbit than anterior nostril; eye situated close to or slightly removed from dorsal profile, eye diameter 3.9-4.7 times in HL; cheek height 2.4-3.3 times in HL; lateral teeth in jaws conical; outer surface of maxilla smooth or with a longitudinal ridge.
Third dorsal-fin spine longest; pelvic-fin membranes between rays closest to body without dense melanophores
Cheek naked; 4½ scale rows between lateral line and base of middle dorsal-fin spines; 15-16 scale rows in transverse series between origin of anal fin and lateral line; usually 15 rows in lower series of scales around caudal peduncle; 7-10 scales in supratemporal patch; inner surface of pectoral-fin base without scales; posterior angle of operculum with a wide scaleless area. 


Feeds mostly on crustaceans, fishes, echinoderms and molluscs.


Protogynous hermaphrodite.


An excellent food fish, taken mostly by handline, trap and trawl in the Indo-Pacific region.


The specific name rubrioperculatus is from Latin ruber (= red) and operculum (= cover, lid) in reference to the characteristic red spot on the posterior end of the operculum (gill cover).

Species Citation

Lethrinus rubrioperculatus Sato 1978, University Museum, University of Tokyo. Bulletin 15: 58. Type locality: Naha Fish Market, Okinawa Island, Ryukyu Islands, Japan. 


Bray, D.J. 2022


Australian Faunal Directory

Spotcheek Emperor, Lethrinus rubrioperculatus Sato 1978


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. & Russell, B.C. 1986. Part VII Fishes. pp. 79-103 in Berry, P.F. (ed.). Faunal Surveys of the Rowley Shoals, Scott Reef and Seringapatam Reef, northwestern Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 25: 1-106 

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.

Carpenter, K.E. 2001. Sparidae, Lethrinidae. pp. 2990-3050 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 5 2791-3379 pp.

Carpenter, K.E. & Allen, G.R. 1989. FAO Species Catalogue. Emperor fishes and large-eye breams of the world (family Lethrinidae). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of lethrinid species known to date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis. No. 125, Vol. 9. Rome : FAO 118 pp.

Carpenter, K.E., Lawrence, A. & Myers, R. 2016. Lethrinus rubrioperculatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T16720528A16722355. Downloaded on 15 July 2019.

Ebisawa, A. 1997. Some aspects of reproduction and sexuality in the spotcheek emperor, Lethrinus rubrioperculatus, in waters off the Ryukyu Islands. Ichthyological Research 44: 201-212.

Ebisawa, A. & Ozawa, T. 2009. Life-history traits of eight Lethrinus species from two local populations in waters off the Ryukyu Islands. Fisheries Science 75(3): 553-566.  

Galbo, A.M.L., Carpenter, K.E. & Reed, D.L. 2002. Evolution of trophic types in emperor fishes (Lethrinus, Lethrinidae, Percoidei) based on cytochrome b gene sequence variation. Journal of Molecular Evolution 54(6): 754-762.

Grant, E.M. 1991. Fishes of Australia. Brisbane : EM Grant Pty Ltd 480 pp. 

Grant, E.M. 2002. Guide to Fishes. Redcliffe : EM Grant Pty Ltd 880 pp. 

Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Biodiversity of shallow reef fish assemblages in Western Australia using a rapid censusing technique. Records of the Western Australian Museum 20: 247-270 

Hutchins, J.B., Williams, D.McB., Newman, S.J., Cappo, M. & Speare, P. 1995. New records of fishes for the Rowley Shoals and Scott/Seringapatam Reefs, off north-western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 17: 119-123 

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) 

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. 

Russell, B.C., Larson, H.K., Hutchins, J.B. & Allen, G.R. 2005. Reef fishes of the Sahul Shelf. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory Supplement 1 2005: 83-105 

Sainsbury, K.J., Kailola, P.J. & Leyland, G.G. 1984. Continental Shelf Fishes of Northern and North-Western Australia. Canberra : Fisheries Information Service 375 pp. figs & pls. 

Sato, T. 1978. A synopsis of the sparoid fish genus Lethrinus, with the description of a new species. University Museum, University of Tokyo. Bulletin 15: 1-70 figs 1-35 pls 1-12 See ref online

Trianni, M.S. 2011. Biological characteristics of the Spotcheek Emperor, Lethrinus rubrioperculatus, in the Northern Mariana Islands. Pacific Science 65(3): 345-363.

Williams, A.J., Mapstone, B.D. & Davies, C.R. 2007. Spatial and interannual patterns in growth of an exploited coral-reef
fish. Journal of Fish Biology 71: 970 – 992, doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8649.2007.01560.x.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37351012


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:10-160 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:50 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map