Variable Sabretooth Blenny, Petroscirtes variabilis Cantor 1850

Other Names: Sabertooth Blenny, Saber-toothed Blenny, Variable Fangblenny, Variable Sabre-tooth, Viper Blenny

A Variable Sabretooth Blenny, Petroscirtes variabilis, at Nambucca Heads, New South Wales, January 2013. Source: Ian Shaw / License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial

Males are orange-brown with a yellowish belly, while females are green to olive-green above, and paler below. While some individuals are mostly plain green with small pearly spots, others have large irregular dark blotches along the upper side, and barred or spotted dorsal fin.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2018, Petroscirtes variabilis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

Variable Sabretooth Blenny, Petroscirtes variabilis Cantor 1850

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Cobourg Peninsula, Northern Territory, to northeast of Port Macquarie, New South Wales, and possibly south to Sydney Harbour. Elsewhere the species occurs in the east-Indo-West Pacific from Sri Lanka to Fiji, and north to southern Taiwan and the Yaeyama Islands, southern Japan.
Inhabits estuaries, mangroves and seagrass beds, often in shallow lagoons. The Variable Sabretooth Blenny may also shelter in Sargassum rafts.


Dorsal fin X-XI, 16-19; Anal fin II, 16-19 (rarely 19); Pectoral fin 13-15. 
Gill opening narrow, positioned entirely above pectoral fin; all caudal fin rays unbranched; posttemporal cirri present; a pair of enlarged canines without a venom groove anteriorly on lower jaw.


Feeds mostly on small crustaceans, often browsed from seagrass leaves. The species also consumes sessile invertebrates and occasionally takes scales from fishes.

Similar Species

The Variable Sabretooth Blenny is similar to the Brown Sabretooth Blenny, Petroscirtes brevicepsin shape but has a blotched, rather than lined pattern on the body.

Species Citation

Petroscirtes variabilis Cantor 1850, J. Asiatic Soc. Bengal 18(2): 1182. Type: Sea of Penang, Singapore (as Pinang).


Bray, D.J. 2018


Australian Faunal Directory

Variable Sabretooth Blenny, Petroscirtes variabilis Cantor 1850


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Cantor, T.E. 1850. Catalogue of Malayan fishes. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 18(2): 983-1443 pls 1-14

De Vis, C.W. 1884. New fishes in the Queensland Museum. No. 4. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 9(3): 685-698 (as Salarias viperidens)

Ferraris, C.J. & Murdy, E.O. 1981. Aspects of Sexual Dimorphism and Feeding in Petroscirtes variabilis Cantor (Osteichthys: Blenniidae). Micronesica 17(1&2): 157-160 Ref available online

Gorelova, T.A. & Fedoryako, B.I. 1986. Topic and trophic relationships of fishes associated with drifting Sargassum algae. Journal of Ichthyology 26(2): 63-72.

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

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

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

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Kuiter, R.H. & Tonozuka, T. 2001. Pictorial guide to Indonesian reef fishes. Part 2. Fusiliers - Dragonets, Caesionidae - Callionymidae. Australia : Zoonetics pp. 304-622.

Marshall, T.C. 1964. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coastal Waters of Queensland. Sydney : Angus & Robertson 566 pp. 136 pls. 

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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. 

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Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1976. The saber-toothed blennies, tribe Nemophini (Pisces : Blenniidae). Monographs of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 19: 1-196 figs 1-179 

Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1987. The saber-toothed blennies, tribe Nemophini (Pisces: Blenniidae): an update. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 139: 1-52 figs 1-29

Watson, W. 2009. Larval development in blennies, pp. 309-350 in Patzner, R.A., Gonçalves, E.J., Hastings, P.A. & Kapoor, B.G. (eds) The biology of blennies. Science Publishers, Enfield, NH, USA. 482 pp.

Williams, J., Smith-Vaniz, W. and Hastings, P. 2014. Petroscirtes variabilis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T48342187A48391767. Downloaded on 01 December 2018.

Yatsu, A., Iwata, A. & Sato, M. 1983. First records of the blenniid fishes, Petroscirtes springeri and Petroscirtes variabilis, from Japan. Japanese Journal of Ichthyology 30(3): 297-300.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37408003

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-30 m

Habitat:Reef associated, seagrass

Max Size:15 cm TL

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