White-ear, Parma microlepis Günther 1862

Other Names: White Ear, White Ear Scalyfin, White-ear Scalyfin

A White-ear, Parma microlepis, in Bushrangers Bay, Bass Point, New South Wales, June 2017. Source: Erik Schlogl / iNaturalist.org. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial


Like many damselfishes, the White-ear changes colour with growth. The brightly coloured orange juveniles have neon-blue lines and spots on the head and upper body, a black ocellus ringed with neon-blue on the dorsal fin, and a white patch on the gill cover.

With growth, the body becomes brownish, and the neon blue markings and ocellus gradually disappear. Large individuals are yellowish-brown to black, with a distinct white "ear-like" marking on the gill cover that is visible at all growth stages.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Parma microlepis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Jul 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/Species/2328

White-ear, Parma microlepis Günther 1862

More Info


Northern New South Wales to southeastern Tasmania and west to Anglesea, Victoria, at depths to 30 m. The White Ear is one of the most abundant rocky reef fishes in the Sydney region, but is very rare in Port Phillip Bay.

Common inhabitant of coastal reefs in New South Wales. Small juveniles often shelter among macroalgae in tide pools.


Dorsal fin XIII, 16-18; Anal fin II, 14-16; Caudal fin 15; Pectoral fin 20-21; Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line scales 23-28; Gill rakers 19-23.

Body deep, somewhat oval, with a rounded head, a small terminal mouth, and a single long-based dorsal fin. Scales large, bases of dorsal and anal fins with scaly sheath of smaller scales. Colour highly variable from juvenile to adult.


To 20 cm.


Large individuals are yellowish-brown to black with a distinct white "ear-like" marking on the gill cover. Small juveniles are bright orange with neon-blue lines, spots and a black ocellus ringed with neon-blue on dorsal fin.

With growth, the body becomes brown and the blue colour and ocellus gradually disappear. The white "ear" marking is visible at all stages.




During the breeding season, individuals form breeding pairs. Males prepare 'nests' on rocky substrates by removing algae, detritus and encrusting organisms.

Females lay their adherent eggs onto this 'nest' site, and her male partner aerates and aggressively protects the eggs from all-comers, including divers who stray to close. The larvae are pelagic.

Studies have shown that P. microlepis grows rapidly durng the first 8 years of life, and can live to at least 37 years, and can reproduce for more than 30 years.


Of no interest to fisheries.


The White ear is abundant on coastal reefs along much of the New South Wales coast. Divers are very familiar with these small territorial fishes, especially during the breeding season when males aggressively guard their eggs against predators.

Similar Species

Differs from the similar Parma victoriae in having a white patch on the gill cover at all stages throughout the life cycle.


The specific name microlepis is from the Greek mikros (= small) and lepis (= scale), possibly in reference to the small scales of this species compared with related species.

Species Citation

Parma microlepis Günther, 1862, Cat. Fish. Brit. Mus. 4: 57. Type locality: Port Jackson, New South Wales.


Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

White-ear, Parma microlepis Günther 1862


Allen, G.R. 1991. Damselfishes of the world. Mergus Publishers, Melle, Germany. 271 pp.

Allen, G. R. 2001. Family Pomacentridae. 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.

Allen, G.R. & Gomon, M.F. 2008. Family Pomacentridae. pp. 634-638 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Allen, G.R. & Hoese, D.F. 1975. A review of the pomacentrid fish genus Parma, with descriptions of two new species. Records of the Western Australian Museum 3(4): 261-294 figs 1-18 See ref online

Buckle, E.C. & Booth, D.J. 2009. Ontogeny of space use and diet of two temperate damselfish species, Parma microlepis and Parma unifasciata. Marine Biology 156: 1497–1505, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-009-1189-y

Curley, B.G. & Gillings, M.R. 2009. Population connectivity in the temperate damselfish Parma microlepis: analyses of genetic structure across multiple spatial scales. Marine Biology 156: 381–393, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-008-1090-0

Edgar, G.J., Last, P.R. & Wells, M.W. 1982. Coastal Fishes of Tasmania and Bass Strait. Hobart : Cat & Fiddle Press 175 pp.

Figueira, W.F., Biro, P., Booth, D.J. & Valenzuela, V.C. 2009. Performance of tropical fish recruiting to temperate habitats: role of ambient temperature and implications of climate change. Marine Ecology Progress Series 384: 231-239. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08057

Galaiduk. R., Figueira, W.F., Kingsford, M.J. & Curley, B.G. 2013. Factors driving the biogeographic distribution of two temperate Australian damselfishes and ramifications for range shifts. Marine Ecology Progress Series 484: 189-202. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10300

Günther, A. 1862. Catalogue of the Fishes in the British Museum. Catalogue of the Acanthopterygii Pharyngognathi and Anacanthini in the collection of the British Museum. London : British Museum Vol. 4 534 pp. (described as Parma microlpis and P. squamipinnisSee ref at BHL

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

Kingsford, M. & Gillanders, B. 2000. Variation in concentrations of trace elements in otoliths and eye lenses of a temperate reef fish, Parma microlepis, as a function of depth, spatial scale, and age. Marine Biology 137: 403-414. https://doi.org/10.1007/s002270000304

Kuiter, R.H.1994. Labridae, in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & R.H. Kuiter (eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. 992 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. 437 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. 433 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. & Kuiter, S.L. 2018. Fish watchers guide to coastal sea-fishes of south-eastern Australia. Seaford, Victoria : Aquatic Photographics, 371 pp.

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs.

Moran, M.J. & Sale, P.F. 1977. Seasonal variation in territorial response, and other aspects of the ecology of the Australian temperate pomacentrid fish Parma microlepisMarine Biology 39: 121–128, https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00386997

Steindachner, F. 1867. Ichthyologische Notizen (6) 2. Zur Fischfauna von Port Jackson. Sitzungsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien 56(1): 320-335 fig. 1 (described as Glyphidodon (Parma) australis)

Tzioumis, V. & Kingsford, M.J. 1995. Periodicity of Spawning of Two Temperate Damselfishes: Parma microlepis and Chromis dispilusBulletin of Marine Science 57(3): 596-609 See ref online

Tzioumis, V. & Kingsford, M.J. 1999. Reproductive biology and growth of the temperate damselfish Parma microlepis. Copeia 1999(2): 348-361, https://doi.org/10.2307/1447480

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37372005

Behaviour:Males guard the eggs

Depth:0-30 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:20 cm


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