Whitespot Parrotfish, Scarus forsteni (Bleeker 1861)

Other Names: Forsten's Parrotfish, Princess Parrotfish, Rainbow Parrotfish, Tricolor Parrotfish

A male Whitespot Parrotfish, Scarus forsteni, at Ashmore Reef in the Coral Sea, July 2015. Source: Ian Shaw / iNaturalist.org. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial

Males are greenish with pink scale edges and often a pinkish midsection, a green band around the mouth, extending below the eye, and a purplish area on the upper part of the head. Females are pale greyish with a broad yellowish-brown area on the middle of the side surrounding a bluish-green patch with a small indistinct pale spot above this patch, and a dark band from the snout to the pectoral-fin base.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2018, Scarus forsteni in Fishes of Australia, accessed 25 May 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/400

Whitespot Parrotfish, Scarus forsteni (Bleeker 1861)

More Info


Offshore reefs of north Western Australia, and the northern Great Barrier Reef and reefs in the Coral Sea, to at least the Solitary Islands, New South Wales; also in the Lord Howe Island region in the Tasman Sea, and at Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical east-Indo-west-central Pacific.
A relatively rare species with individuals or pairs seen on slopes and crests of outer-shelf reefs, usually in areas of rich coral growth, at depths to 30 m.


Dorsal fin IX, 10; Anal fin III, 9. 
Scales large. 6-7 median predorsal scales; 3 scale rows on cheek, ventral row with 2-6 scales (usually 3-4). Caudal fin slightly to moderately emarginate in initial phase; deeply lunate in terminal male. Dental plates partially covered by lips. Terminal males and some large initial-phase fish with 1 or 2 canines posteriorly on upper dental plate.


Juveniles and females have distinct markings on their sides. Very small juveniles (less than 25mm) are off white to pale brown, with 4 brown stripes and pale dots in the orbital and pectoral stripes. Juveniles larger than 25 mm are pale brown, with or without stripes, and a single prominent pale dot often present near the tip of the pectoral fin. 


Scarus forsteni is a protogynous hermaphrodite, and females may change sex to become males during their life cycle.

Similar Species

Terminal phase males of the similar Tricolour Parrotfish, Scarus tricolor, differ mostly in having a yellow blotch on the inner pectoral-fin axil. markings on the head and fins also help distinguish TP males of these two species. The upper margin of the orbit in S. forsteni has a short green bar extending only slightly before the eye. S. tricolor has a long band through the top of the eye and a more distinctive lower orbital bar running to the upper lip. The turquoise-blue fin markings are more extensive in S. forsteni, covering the upper third of the pectoral fin, the outer half of the spinous dorsal and anal fin, and anterior third of the pelvic. S. tricolor has only a narrow band along the upper four rays of the pectoral with a narrow transverse blue bar at the base; the blue margins of the dorsal anal and pelvic fins are all narrower than in S. forsteni. Vertical fin pigmentation appears to be the best criterion for distinguishing the terminal phases of these species. The caudal fin in S. tricolor is strongly lunate (see Choat & Randall 1986).

Species Citation

Pseudoscarus forsteni Bleeker 1861, Verslagen en Mededeelingen der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen (Afdeeling Natuurjunde) 12: 238. Type locality (syntypes): Celebes and Moluccas, Indonesia.


Bray, D.J. 2018


Whitespot Parrotfish, Scarus forsteni (Bleeker 1861)


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Western Australian Museum. 220 pp.

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

Allen, G.R. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1994. Fishes of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 412: 1-21.

Allen, G.R. & Steene, R.C. 1979. The Fishes of Christmas Island, Indian Ocean. Aust. Natl. Parks Wldlf. Ser. Spec. Publ. 2. Canberra : Australian Government Publishing Service 81 pp. 15 pls.

Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C. & Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2 edn, 284 pp.

Bellwood, D.R. 2001. Scaridae. pp. 3468-3492 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. 6 pp. 3381-4218.

Bellwood, D.R. & Choat, J.H. 1990. A functional analysis of grazing in parrotfishes (family Scaridae): the ecological implications. Environ. Biol. Fish. 28: 189-214.

Bellwood, D.R. & Choat, J.H. 1989. A description of the juvenile phase colour patterns of 24 parrotfish species (Family Scaridae) from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Records of the Australian Museum 41: 1-41 DOI:10.3853/j.0067-1975.41.1989.134 PDF available, open access

Bleeker, P. 1861. Iets over de geslachten der Scaroïden en kunne Indisch-archipelagische soorten. Verslagen en Mededeelingen der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen (Afdeeling Natuurjunde). Amsterdam 12: 228-244.

Choat, J.H. & Randall, J.E. 1986. A review of the parrotfishes (Family Scaridae) of the Great Barrier Reef of Australia with description of a new species. Records of the Australian Museum 38: 175-228 DOI:10.3853/j.0067-1975.38.1986.181 PDF available, open access

Comeros-Raynal, M.T., Choat, J.H., Polidoro, B.A., Clements, K.D., Abesamis, R., Craig, M.T., Lazuardi, M.E., McIlwain, J., Muljadi, A., Myers, R.F., Nañola Jr., C.L., Pardede, S., Rocha, L.A., Russell, B.C., Sanciangco, J.C., Stockwell, B., Harwell, H. & Carpenter, K.E. 2012. The likelihood of extinction of iconic and dominant components of coral reefs: the parrotfishes and surgeonfishes. PLoS ONE http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0039825.

Gill, A.C. & Reader, S.E. 1992. Fishes. pp. 90-93, 193-228 in Hutchings, P. (ed.) Reef Biology. A Survey of Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, South Pacific. Canberra : Australian National Parks Vol. 3, Kowari 230 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2002. Fairy and Rainbow Wrasses and their Relatives. A Comprehensive Guide to Selected Labroids. TMC Publishing. 208 pp.

Myers, R.F. 1999. Micronesian Reef Fishes. Coral Graphics. 222 pp.

Myers, R., Choat, J.H., Russell, B., Clements, K.D., Rocha, L.A., Lazuardi, M.E., Muljadi, A., Pardede, S. & Rahardjo, P. 2012. Scarus forsteni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T190747A66523750. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2012.RLTS.T190747A66523750.en. Downloaded on 15 February 2016.

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.

Smith, L.L., Fessler, J.L., Alfaro, M.E., Streelman, J.T. & Westneat, M.W. 2008. Phylogenetic relationships and the evolution of regulatory gene sequences in the parrotfishes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 49: 136-152.

Westneat, M.W. & Alfaro, M.E. 2005. Phylogenetic relationships and evolutionary history of the reef fish family Labridae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 36: 370–390.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37386015


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:3-30 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:55 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map