Starry Triggerfish, Abalistes stellatus (Anonymous 1798)

Other Names: Flat-tailed Triggerfish, Flat-tailed Trigger-fish, Starry Trigger-fish

A Starry Triggerfish, Abalistes stellatus, at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Source: Anne Hoggett / Lizard Island Filed Guide, License: CC by Attribution

A greyish to greenish-brown triggerfish becoming whitish below, with four large white blotches along the back (the last on the caudal peduncle), pale yellowish-brown spots on the body, and sometimes a white streak on the upper midside.

Video of Starry Triggerfish (Abalistes stellatus), Coral Trout (Plectropomus leopardus), and Yellowtail Fusiliers (Caesio cuning) at a Baited Remote Underwater Video camera (BRUV) in the blue zone, at Karamea Bank, Queensland.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2018, Abalistes stellatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 29 May 2024,

Starry Triggerfish, Abalistes stellatus (Anonymous 1798)

More Info


Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia to off Merimbula, New South Wales. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, Indo-west Pacific.
Usually inhabits sand, sponge, and weed areas on deep slopes. Juveniles often occur in sheltered coastal bays and estuaries around open areas with rubble outcrops and debris.


Dorsal fin III + 25-27; Anal fin 24-25. 
An oblique groove before the eye; large bony scales behind gill opening; greatest body depth 2-2.5 SL. Caudal peduncle depressed, width greater than least depth, very slender and tapering, much longer than deep
First dorsal spine 1.6-1.9 HL; 3rd dorsal spine about 1/3 length of first spine. Front of soft dorsal and anal fins not elevated; caudal fin double emarginate, lobes longer with growth. 


This species has also been called Abalistes stellaris in Australia.

Similar Species

The similar Hairfin Triggerfish, Abalistes filamentosus has filamentous upper and lower caudal-fin rays, 3–4 longitudinal grooves on the cheek, and lacks the yellow or pale blue spots and yellow reticulations on the body of the Starry Triggerfish.

Species Citation

Balistes stellatus Anonymous 1798, Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, Berlin 3(287): 682. Type locality: Mauritius.


Bray, D.J. 2018


Australian Faunal Directory

Starry Triggerfish, Abalistes stellatus (Anonymous 1798)


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls.

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

Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls. 

Anonymous 1798. Review of Tome I of `Histoire naturelle des poissons' by Lacépède (1798). Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, Berlin 3(287): 674-685. 

Grant, E.M. 1975. Guide to Fishes. Brisbane : Queensland Government, Co-ordinator General’s Department 640 pp. 

Hutchins, B. 2004. Fishes of the Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 66: 343–398 (as Abalistes stellaris)

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

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) 

Jordan, D.S. & Seale, A. 1906. The fishes of Samoa. Description of the species found in the Archipelago, with a provisional checklist of the fishes of Oceania. Bulletin of the Bureau of Fisheries (U.S.) for 1905 25: 173-455 figs 1-111 pls 33-53 

Kuiter, R.H. 1992. Tropical Reef-Fishes of the Western Pacific, Indonesia and Adjacent Waters. Jakarta : PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama 314 pp. pls. 

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 

Marshall, T.C. 1964. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coastal Waters of Queensland. Sydney : Angus & Robertson 566 pp. 136 pls.
Matsuura, K. 1980. A revision of the Japanese balistoid fishes. I. Family Balistidae. Bull. Natl. Sci. Mus. 6(1): 27-69
Matsuura, K. 2014. Taxonomy and systematics of tetraodontiform fishes: a review focusing primarily on progress in the period 1980 to 2014. Review for IPFC9 Special Issue. Ichthyological Research 62(1): 72-113. Open access DOI:10.1007/s10228-014-0444-5

Matsuura, K. & Motomura, H. 2015. Abalistes stellatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T193587A56996805. Downloaded on 09 March 2018.

Matsuura, K. & Yoshino, T. 2004. A new triggerfish of the genus Abalistes (Tetraodontiformes: Balistidae) from the western Pacific. Records of the Australian Museum 56(2): 189-194. PDF Open access

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii. 720 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.

Randall, J.E. & Justine, J.-L. 2008. The triggerfish Abalistes filamentosus from New Caledonia, a first record for the South Pacific. Cybium 32(2): 183-184. Ref available, open access

Richardson, J. 1846. Description of six fish taken by the officers of the Beagle on the coasts of Australia. 484-497 pls 1-4 in Stokes, J.L. (ed.) Discoveries in Australia. London : T. & W. Boone Vol. 1. (as Balistes haleratus)

Russell, B.C. 1983. Annotated checklist of the coral reef fishes in the Capricorn-Bunker group, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Special Publication Series 1: 1-184 figs 1-2 (as Abalistes stellaris)

Sainsbury, K.J., Kailola, P.J. & Leyland, G.G. 1984. Continental Shelf Fishes of Northern and North-Western Australia. Canberra : Fisheries Information Service 375 pp. figs & pls.

Whitley, G.P. 1941. Ichthyological notes and illustrations. The Australian Zoologist 10(1): 1-50 figs 1-32 pls 1-2

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37465011

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:7-350 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:60 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map