Sawtooth Moray, Gymnothorax prionodon Ogilby 1895

Other Names: Australian Mottled Moray, Indo-Pacific Spotted Moray, Saw-tooth Moray, Saw-toothed Eel, Sawtoothed Moray

A Sawtooth Moray, Gymnothorax prionodon, ay Halifax Point, Nelson Ba,y New South Wales, February 2011. Source: Richard Ling / Flickr. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives

A large brown to reddish-brown moray with a variable pattern of small to moderate-sized spots (sometimes ocellated) on the head, body and tail.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Gymnothorax prionodon in Fishes of Australia, accessed 25 May 2024,

Sawtooth Moray, Gymnothorax prionodon Ogilby 1895

More Info


Off Shark Bay to Point Cloates, Western Australia, and off Mooloolaba, Queensland, to at least Green Cape, southern New South Wales; also the Lord Howe Province in the Tasman Sea. The species may also occur north to deep waters in the Coral Sea off Myrmidon Reef, Queensland. Elsewhere it has an antitropical distribution in the west Pacific: New Zealand, Japan and Taiwan.


A large moray with tapering tail; depth at gill opening 11–17 and depth at anus 13–21 in TL; anus before midbody, preanal length 2.0–2.2. Head elongate, 6.8–8.0 in TL; snout long and narrow, its length 4.6–6.8 in TL, head bulbous behind; jaws long, upper jaw length 2.1–3.0 in HL. Eye small, above midgape, its diameter 10–14 in HL. Anterior nostril in long tube; posterior nostril above anterior margin of eye, with raised rim. Head pores typical; 2 branchial pores above and before gill opening; dorsal-fin origin above or before first branchial pore. Gill opening at midside. Predorsal vertebrae 4–7; preanal vertebrae 53–58; total vertebrae 135–142; MVF 6-54-138 (8)


Background colour medium brown, with small to moderate pale spots, the pattern highly variable. Small spots on dorsal head, lower jaw uniform tan; thorax and abdomen spotted in large specimens. Body spots small, ocellated, and moderately separated in small specimen (the holotype), becoming larger and divided into segments in larger specimens, sometimes fewer, more widely separated, and ocellated on tail. Both dorsal and anal fins slightly dark, with 1–2 rows of spots, frequently a row on margin of fins some of which may be joined, but not forming a continuous pale margin on fins. Mouth angle and gill opening dusky; dark gular folds present.


The specific name prionodon is from the Greek prion (= a saw) and odous (odon) (= tooth) in reference to the serrations on some of the anterior teeth. (Subsequent authors have determined that this species lacks serrate teeth).

Species Citation

Gymnothorax prionodon Ogilby 1895, Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 2 9(4): 720. Type locality: Port Jackson, New South Wales.


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Sawtooth Moray, Gymnothorax prionodon Ogilby 1895


Böhlke, E.B. & McCosker, J.E. 2001. The moray eels of Australia and New Zealand, with the description of two new species (Anguilliformes: Muraenidae). Records of the Australian Museum 53: 71-102 figs 1-10

Böhlke, E.B. & Smith, D.G. 2002. Type catalogue of Indo-Pacific Muraenidae. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 152: 89-172 

Coleman, N. 1980. Australian Sea Fishes South of 30ºS. Lane Cove, NSW : Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd 309 pp. 

Griffin, L.T. 1933. Descriptions of New Zealand fishes. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 63(2): 171-177, Pls. 24-25.(described as Muraena shirleyi)

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) 

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

Ogilby, J.D. 1895. Description of a new Australian eel. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 2 9(4): 720-721 See ref at BHL

Sih, T.L., Cappo, M. & Kingsford, M. 2017. Deep-reef fish assemblages of the Great Barrier Reef shelf-break (Australia). Scientific Reports 7(10886): 1-18

Smith, D.G., McCosker, J. & Tighe, K. 2019. Gymnothorax prionodon. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T195782A2417174. Downloaded on 11 January 2020.

Stewart, A.L. & McCosker, J.E. 2015. Family Muraenidae. pp.224-237 in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 2 pp. 1-576. 

Whitley, G.P. 1968. Some fishes from New South Wales. Proceedings of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales 1966–67: 32-40 3 figs 2 pls (described as Lycodontis wooliensis)

Whitley, G.P. & Phillipps, W.J. 1939. Descriptive notes on some New Zealand fishes. Transactions of the Royal Society of New Zealand 69(2): 228-236 figs 21-22 (as Serranguilla prionodon)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37060049

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:15-128 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:150 cm TL

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