Harlequin Smiler, Opistognathus eximius (Ogilby 1908)

A Harlequin Smiler, Opistognathus eximius, at Bundaberg, Queensland, March 2015. Source: @Glenn / https://www.whatsthatfish.com/fish/harlequin-smiler/2822. License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

A golden-yellow jawfish becoming mostly blue below with yellow spots and markings, a conspicuous dark blue blotch on the gill cover, and blue and yellow spots, stripes and bands on the fins.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2023, Opistognathus eximius in Fishes of Australia, accessed 30 Nov 2023, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/4477

Harlequin Smiler, Opistognathus eximius (Ogilby 1908)

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Endemic to eastern Australia, from North West Islet to Moreton Bay, Queensland. Contructs burrows in sandy areas.


Dorsal fin XI,13; Anal fin II,12; Pectoral fin 19-21; Caudal fin segmented rays 8+8, branched rays 12-14, procurrent rays 3-5 + 4, total 23-25; Vertebrae 10+16.


The eggs, which are clumped together in a sticky egg ball, are incubated in the mouth of the parent.


The specific name is from the Latin eximius (= select, set apart, distinguished, excellent) in reference to what Ogilby aptly described as "being arrayed in a livery of most gorgeous splendor.”

Species Citation

Merogymnus eximius Ogilby 1908, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland 21: 18. Type locality: Snapper Banks off Moreton Bay, Queensland.


Bray, D.J. 2023


Atlas of Living Australia

Harlequin Smiler, Opistognathus eximius (Ogilby 1908)


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

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

Mooi, R.D. 1990. Egg surface morphology of pseudochromoids (Perciformes: Percoidei), with comments on its phylogenetic implications. Copeia 1990(2):455-475. https://doi.org/10.2307/1446351

Ogilby, J.D. 1908. On new genera and species of fishes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland 21: 1-26 See ref at BHL

Ogilby, J.D. 1920. Edible fishes of Queensland. Part XVI. Opisthognathidae (No. 1). Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 7(1): 21-30 See ref at BHL

Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1999. Family Opistognathidae. pp. 2588-2589 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. 4 pp. 2069-2790. 

Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 2004. Descriptions of Six New Species of Jawfishes (Opistognathidae: Opistognathus) from Australia. Records of the Australian Museum 56: 209-224 https://doi.org/10.3853/j.0067-1975.56.2004.1422 (as Opistognathus eximus)

Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 2023. Review of Indo-West Pacific jawfishes (Opistognathus: Opistognathidae), with descriptions of 18 new species. Zootaxa 5252(1): 1-180.  https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.5252.1.1

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37388004


Depth:1-150 m

Habitat:Reef associated, in burrows

Max Size:40 cm TL

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