John Dory, Zeus faber Linnaeus 1758

Other Names: Doorkeeper's Fish, Keparu, Kuparu, St. Peter's Fish
A John Dory, Zeus faber, near the bottom with its fins spread out.

John Dory, Zeus faber. Source: Rudie H. Kuiter / Aquatic Photographics. License: All rights reserved


A striking fish with an extremely compressed body, a large highly protrusible mouth, long dorsal fin spines with fin membranes produced beyond the tips of the spines and large bony bucklers at the bases of the dorsal and anal fins.

Easily recognised with its olive-yellow body and the large ocellated spot on the midsides, John Dory slowly approach their prey head-on, before shooting out their protrusible jaws to capture small fishes.

Individuals are usually solitary and live near the bottom. The large spot is thought to confuse predators.

Fabulous video of John Dory at Dorset in the UK.

Video of John Dory feeding in the Enoshima Aquarium in Japan.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Zeus faber in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Apr 2024,

John Dory, Zeus faber Linnaeus 1758

More Info


Widespread in Australian waters from off Swain Reefs, Queensland, around southern Australia, to the Arafura Sea, north of Bathurst Island, Northern Territory; including seamounts in the Tasman and southern Coral seas. Elsewhere the species occurs in the Eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea, and the Indo-west Pacific.


Dorsal fin X, 21-24; Anal fin IV-V, 20-25; Pectoral fin 12-15; Pelvic fin I, 6-7; Caudal fin 13; lateral line scales about 110; Bucklers at soft dorsal-fin base 3-9; Bucklers at soft anal-fin base 4-9.

Body covered in small, circular almost embedded cycloid scales.


Max size 66 cm


Silvery to olive-brown with an ocellated midlateral spot; spot blue-black, surrounded by a lighter yellowish ring, then a slightly darker, indistinct ring; sides of body often with darker, wavy lines; membranes of the spinous dorsal and anal fins are blackish; pelvic fins black; fins otherwise dusky.


John Dory are primarily piscivores, feeding mostly on smaller fishes near the bottom. They also feed on crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs.


Little is known of the biology. John Dory are usually solitary, and spawn during summer and early autumn.


Although not traditionally targeted in commercial fisheries, John Dory are an important part of the bycatch in trawl fisheries throughout their range. They are also caught by recreational anglers. The flesh is considered excellent eating.


DNA barcoding indicates that there are two distinct species with considerable  divergence between populations in Europe and South Africa/Australasia (Ward et al. 2008). Unpublished sequences of Australian and Japanese material indicates that  Japanese and Australian populations belong to the same species - meaning that the correct name for the South African, Australasian and Japanese populations is Zeus japonicus.

Species Citation

Zeus faber Linnaeus, 1758, Systema Nature, 10th ed., vol. 1: 267. Type locality: "habitat in pelago" (ocean).

Carl Linnaeus described the John Dory, Zeus faber, in 1758. The Linnean Society is the custodian of Linnaeus' collections, including the actual specimen on which the description of Zeus faber was based. This specimen can be viewed at:


Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

John Dory, Zeus faber Linnaeus 1758


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

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.

Beentjes, P., Bull, B., Hurst, R.J. & Bagley, N.W. 2002. Demersal fish assemblages along the continental shelf and upper slope of the east coast of the South Island, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 36: 197-223.

Bray, D.J. 1994. Families Zeidae, Oreosomatidae. pp. 416-427 figs 373-381 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs. 

Bray, D.J. 2008. Family Zeidae. pp. 438-440 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp. 

Bray, D.J. 2015. 142 Family Zeidae. pp. 1026-1028 in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 3 pp. 577-1152.

Bulman, C.M., Althaus, F., He, X., Bax, N.J. & Williams, A. 2001. Diets and trophic guilds of demersal fishes of the south-eastern Australian shelf. Marine and Freshwater Research 52(4): 537-548.

Coleman, N. 1980. Australian Sea Fishes South of 30ºS. Lane Cove, NSW : Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd 309 pp. 

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

Heemstra, P.C. 1980. A revision of the zeid fishes (Zeiformes : Zeidae) of South Africa. Ichthyological Bulletin of the J.L.B. Smith Institute, Grahamstown 41: 1-18 figs 1-5 pls 1-2 

Heemstra, P.C. 1999. Families Parazenidae, Macrocyttidae, Zeidae, Grammicolepididae, Caproidae. pp. 2257-2261 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. 4 pp. 2069-2790. 

Hoschke, A., Whisson, G. & Moore, G.I. 2019. Complete list of fishes from Rottnest Island. pp. 150-161 in Whisson, G. & Hoschke, A. (eds) The Rottnest Island fish book. 2nd ed. Perth : Aqua Research and Monitoring Services.

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

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

Kailola, P.J., Williams, M.J., Stewart, P.C., Reichelt, R.E., McNee, A. & Grieve, C. 1993. Australian Fisheries Resources. Canberra : Bureau of Resource Sciences and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation 422 pp. 

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. 

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

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.

Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundem classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentis, synonymis, locis. Editio decima, reformata. Holmiae : Laurentii Salvii Tomus I 824 pp. See ref at BHL

May, J.L. & Maxwell, J.G.H. 1986. Field Guide to Trawl Fish from Temperate Waters of Australia. Hobart : CSIRO Division of Marine Research 492 pp..

Prokop, F. 2002. Australian Fish Guide. Croydon South, Victoria : Australian Fishing Network 256 pp. 

Richardson, J. 1845. Ichthyology. 17-52 pls 7-8 (parts), 11-30 in Richardson, J. & Gray, J.E. (eds). The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Erebus and Terror under the Command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross, R.N., F.R.S., during the years 1839–43. London : E.W. Janson Vol. 2 139 pp. pls 1-60. (described from Port Jackson as Zeus australis)

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Stewart, B.D. 1992. Synopsis of the biology of commercially important species of dories and oreos (Order: Zeiformes) in southern Australasian waters: A review of the literature. Department of Conservation and Environment, Fisheries Division, Victoria, Australia. Internal Report no. 196.

Tyler, J.C., O'Toole, B. & Winterbottom, R.W. 2003. Phylogeny of the genera and families of zeiform fishes, with comments on their relationships with tetraodontiforms and caproids. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 618: 1-110 

Ward, R.D., F.O. Costa, B.H. Holmes & D. Steinke. 2008. DNA barcoding of shared fish species from the North Atlantic and Australasia: minimal divergence for most taxa, but Zeus faberand Lepidopus each probably constitute two species. Aquatic Biology 3: 71–78

Whitley, G.P. 1966. Marine Fishes of Australia. Vol. 1. Jackaranda Press, 142 pp.

Yearsley, G.K., Last, P.R. & Ward, R.D. (eds) 1999. Australian Seafood Handbook. Hobart : CSIRO Marine Research 460 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37264004

Conservation:IUCN Data Deficient

Depth:1-240 m

Fishing:Popular food fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:66 cm

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map