Palelipped Surgeonfish, Acanthurus leucocheilus Herre 1927

Other Names: White-spine Surgeon

A Palelipped surgeonfish, Acanthurus leucocheilus, at Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. Source: Graham Edgar / Reef Life Survey. License: CC BY Attribution

A dark brown to blackish surgeonfish with pale lips, a white band across the throat, a white spine on the caudal peduncle, a whitish bar usually on the caudal-fin base, and a pale band on the outer third of the pectoral fin. Feeding individuals may be a paler brown. Juveniles are brown with a yellow caudal fin.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Acanthurus leucocheilus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 18 Jul 2024,

Palelipped Surgeonfish, Acanthurus leucocheilus Herre 1927

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Recorded from the Australian territory of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. Elsewhere, the species is widespread in the Indo-west-central Pacific from the Philippines and Indonesia, eastwards to Tuvalu and the Line Islands and westwards to East Africa including Maldives and Seychelles.
Occurs singly or in small groups on outer reefs., generally in outer reef areas from about 5 to at least 30 m (Randall 2001a).  (Green and Bellwood 2009).


A grazer/detritivore - grazes over sand, feeding on algae and detritus.


The specific name leucocheilus is from the Greek “lef̱kó” (white) and "cheilo" (lips), in reference to the white lips of this species.

Species Citation

Acanthurus leucocheilus Herre 1927, Philippine J. Sci. 34(4): 419, pl. 12 (fig. 3). Type locality: Bantayan, Cebu, and Agutaya, Philippines.


Dianne J. Bray


Australian Faunal Directory

Palelipped Surgeonfish, Acanthurus leucocheilus Herre 1927


Abesamis, R., Clements, K.D., Choat, J.H., McIlwain, J., Myers, R., Nanola, C., Rocha, L.A., Russell, B. & Stockwell, B. 2012. Acanthurus leucocheilus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T177994A1515329. Downloaded on 19 November 2015.

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

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. 1991. Chapter 6. The biology of herbivorous fishes on coral reefs. In: Sale, P.F. (ed.) The Ecology of Fishes on Coral Reefs. Academic Press, Sydney.

Choat, J.H., Clements, K.D. & Robbins, W.D. 2002. The trophic status of herbivorous fishes on coral reefs. 1. Dietary analyses. Marine Biology 140: 613-623.

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., Sanciangco, J.C., Stockwell, B., Harwell, H. and Carpenter, K.E. 2012. The likelihood of extinction of iconic and dominant components of coral reefs: the parrotfishes and surgeonfishes. PLoS ONE

Herre, A.W. 1927. Philippine surgeon fishes and moorish idols. Philippine Journal of Science 34(4): 403-478.

Kuiter, R.H. & Debelius, H. 2001.Surgeonfishes, Rabbitfishes and Their Relatives. A comprehensive guide to Acanthuroidei. Chorleywood, U.K. : TMC Publishing 208 pp.

Myers, R.F. 1999. Micronesian Reef Fishes. A comprehensive guide to the coral reef fishes of Micronesia. Guam : Coral Graphics vi 330 pp. 192 pls.

Randall, J.E. 1956. A revision of the surgeonfish genus Acanthurus. Pacific Science 10(2): 159-235.

Randall, J.E. 2001. Zanclidae, Acanthuridae. pp. 3651-3683 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.

Randall, J.E. 2001. Surgeonfishes of Hawai'i and the World. Honolulu : Mutual Publishing and Bishop Museum Press 125 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37437053

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:5-40 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:48 cm SL

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CAAB distribution map