Whitley's Sergeant, Abudefduf whitleyi Allen & Robertson 1974

Whitley's Sergeant, Abudefduf whitleyi, at North Solitary Island, New South Wales. Source: Ian V. Shaw / Reef Life Survey. License: CC by Attribution

A pale bluish-green damselfish with 5 narrow dark grey bars on sides, spinous dorsal, most of soft dorsal and anal fins, and caudal fin blackish, and a small black spot at the pectoral fin base.
Whitley's Sergeant is common in relatively shallow waters on the Great Barrier Reef, usually on the outer reef edge.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2018, Abudefduf whitleyi in Fishes of Australia, accessed 28 Nov 2022, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/1268

Whitley's Sergeant, Abudefduf whitleyi Allen & Robertson 1974

More Info


Known in Australia from the northern Great Barrier Reef and reefs in the Coral Sea, Queensland, to Sydney, New South Wales; also in the Lord Howe Island region and at Norfolk Island in the Tasman Sea. The species occurs elsewhere in the Coral Sea including New Caledonia.

Inhabits shallow reefs environments, usually on the outer parts of reefs, often in large schools feeding on zooplankton high above the bottom.


Dorsal fin XIII, 12; Anal fin II, 12.


Herbivore. Although Whitley's Sergeant seems to feed on zooplankton on the outer reef crest, an analysis of stomach contents showed that the species actually feeds on algae. Allen & Robertson (1974) suggest that individuals may be selectively picking algae that has been washed from the reef by waves and currents.


Females lay demersal adherent eggs that are guarded and aerated by the male parent until the larvae hatch.

Similar Species

Differs from the closely-related Abudefduf saxatilis and Abudefduf notatus in colour pattern, in anal-fin ray count, and in having mostly naked suborbital bones.


The species is named whitleyi after Gilbert P. Whitley, former Curator of Fishes at the Australian Museum, in honour of his many contributions to Australian Ichthyology.

Species Citation

Abudefduf whitleyi Allen & Robertson, 1974, Rec. Aus. Mus. 29(4): 154. Type locality: Pixies Reef, Great Barrier Reef, off Cairns, Queensland.


Bray, D.J. 2018


Australian Faunal Directory

Whitley's Sergeant, Abudefduf whitleyi Allen & Robertson 1974


Allen, G.R. 1975. Damselfishes of the South Seas. New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 237 pp. 251 figs.

Allen, G.R. 1991. Damselfishes of the World. Melle, Germany : Mergus Verlag 271 pp.

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

Allen, G. R. 2001. Family Pomacentridae. pp. 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. & Robertson, D.R. 1974. Descriptions of four new damselfishes (Pomacentridae) from Papua New Guinea and eastern Australia. Records of the Australian Museum 29(4): 153-167 pls 1-5

Choat, J.H. & D.R. Bellwood (1985) Interactions amongst herbivorous fishes on a coral reef: influence of spatial variation. Marine Biology 89: 221-234.

Cooper, W.J., L.L. Smith & M.W. Westneat (2009). Exploring the radiation of a diverse reef fish family: Phylogenetics of the damselfishes (Pomacentridae), with new classifications based on molecular analyses of all genera. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 52: 1-16.

Francis, M. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 136-170 figs 1-2

Francis, M.P. & Randall, J.E. 1993. Further additions to the fish faunas of Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 118-135 figs 1-22 pls 1-4

Gill, A.C. & Reader, S.E. 1992. Fishes. pp. 90-93, 193-228 in Hutchings, P. (ed.) Reef Biology. A Survey of Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, South Pacific. Canberra : Australian National Parks Vol. 3, Kowari 230 pp.

Heatwole, S.J. & Fulton, C.J. 2012. Behavioural flexibility in reef fishes responding to a rapidly changing wave environment. Marine Biology, doi: 10.1007/s00227-012-2123-2. 

Jenkins, A., Carpenter, K.E., Allen, G. & Yeeting, B. 2017. Abudefduf whitleyi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T188523A1887588. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-2.RLTS.T188523A1887588.en. Downloaded on 06 March 2018.

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

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)

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press 707 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.

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

Siebeck, U.E. & Marshall, N.J. 2001. Ocular media transmission of coral reef fish - can coral reef fish see ultraviolet light? Vision Research 41: 133-149.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37372014

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-15 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:14 mm SL

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CAAB distribution map