Banded Lizardfish, Synodus dermatogenys Fowler 1912

Other Names: Bluestripe Lizardfish, Clearfin Lizardfish, Sand Lizardfish, Two-spot Lizardfish, Variegated Lizardfish

A Banded Lizardfish, Synodus dermatogenys, in Camp Cove, Sydney Harbour, New South Wales, March 2017. Source: John Turnbull / Flickr. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike

A brownish lizardfish becoming pale below, with 6 darker saddles along the back, a series of dark blotches often with pale centres along the midside, a pale bluish stripe above the lateral line and a group of 6 dark spots on the tip of the snout. Banded Lizardfish also have a long, slender nasal tentacle. 
They often lie buried in sand with only their eyes and nostrils exposed.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Synodus dermatogenys in Fishes of Australia, accessed 17 Jun 2024,

Banded Lizardfish, Synodus dermatogenys Fowler 1912

More Info


Ningaloo Reef, Rowley Shoals, Western Australia, and Ashmore Reef, Timor Sea, to at least Sydney, with juveniles south to Montague Island, New South Wales; also Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean, the Lord Howe Island region and Norfolk Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, Indo-west-central Pacific. 
Usually solitary on sandy and rubble substrates near reefs.


Dorsal fin 11-13; Anal fin 8-10; Pectoral fin 11-13; Pelvic fin 8; Lateral line scales 59-62; scale rows above lateral line 5.5.
Cheek usually not scaled to preopercular margin; membranous flap on anterior nostrils long and slender; pectoral fins not reaching a line connecting origins of dorsal and pelvic fins.


Feeds on small fishes and shrimps.


Up to four males have been observed courting a single larger female. A courting male may station itself atop a female, and puff out its gill cover and spread its fins in a display of aggression towards other males.

Similar Species

Often misidentified as the Variegated Lizardfish, Synodus variegatus, which has the cheek fully scaled behind the mouth to the edge of the preopercle (vs cheek usually not scaled to preopercular margin), and also has a short triangular flap on the anterior nostril (vs a long and slender flap in S. dermatogenys).
Differs from the similar Streaky Lizardfish, Synodus similis (which also a blue stripe along the side) in lacking a black spots or a black blotch on the upper rear part of the gill cover.


The specific name dermatogenys is from the Greek dermatos (= skin) and genys (= cheek) in reference to the lower cheek being naked.

Species Citation

Synodus dermatogenys Fowler, 1912, Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philad. 63: 566, fig. 3. Type locality: Hawaiian Islands. 


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Banded Lizardfish, Synodus dermatogenys Fowler 1912


Allen, G.R. 1993. Fishes of Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 44: 67-91 

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

Allen, G.R., Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Randall, J.E., Russell, B.C., Starck, W.A., Talbot, F.H. & Whitley, G.P. 1976. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30(15): 365-454 figs 1-2

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

Choat, J.H., van Herwerden, L., Robbins, W.D., Hobbs, J.P. & Ayling, A.M. 2006. A report on the ecological surveys undertaken at Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs, February 2006. Report by James Cook University to the Department of the Environment and Heritage. 65 pp. 

Cressey, R. 1981. Revision of the Indo-west Pacific lizardfishes of the genus Synodus (Pisces : Synodontidae). Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 342: 1-53 figs 1-44 (6, as a synonym of Synodus variegatus)

Fowler, H.W. 1912. Notes on salmonoid and related fishes. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 63: 551-571 See ref at BHL

Francis, M. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 136-170 figs 1-2

Francis, M.P. & Randall, J.E. 1993. Further additions to the fish faunas of Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 118-135 figs 1-22 pls 1-4

Hobbs, J-P.A., Newman, S.J., Mitsopoulos, G.E.A., Travers, M.J., Skepper, C.L., Gilligan, J.J., Allen, G.R., Choat, H.J. & Ayling, A.M. 2014. Checklist and new records of Christmas Island fishes: the influence of isolation, biogeography and habitat availability on species abundance and community composition. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 30: 184–202.

Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp.

Johnson, J.W. 1999. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 43(2): 709-762

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.

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.

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.

McCulloch, A.R. 1921. Notes and illustrations of Queensland fishes. No. 2. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 7(3): 164-178 pls 8-11 (misidentified as Synodus japonicus, a junior synonym of Synodus variegatus)

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.

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. 1999. Families Synodontidae, Bathysauridae. pp. 1928-1947 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. 3 pp. 1397-2068.

Sainsbury, K.J., Kailola, P.J. & Leyland, G.G. 1985. Continental Shelf Fishes of Northern and North-Western Australia. Canberra : Fisheries Information Service 375 pp. figs & pls. (74, as S. variegatus)

Waples, R.S. & Randall, J.E. 1989. A revision of the Hawaiian lizardfishes of the genus Synodus, with descriptions of four new species. Pacific Science 42(3-4): 177-213.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37118003

Depth:1-70 m

Habitat:Reef associated, sandy/rubble areas

Max Size:24 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map