Wolf Cardinalfish, Cheilodipterus artus Smith 1961

Other Names: Arrow-tooth Cardinal

A Wolf Cardinalfish, Cheilodipterus artus, in Lembeh Straits, north Sulawesi, Indonesia. Source: Paddy Ryan / http://www.ryanphotographic.com/. License: All rights reserved

A pale greyish to mauve cardinalfish with 8 reddish-brown stripes along the head and body, and a dark caudal-fin base. The stripes along the side are not wider that the pale interspaces. Juveniles have a large gold patch surrounding a small black spot on the caudal peduncle. 

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Cheilodipterus artus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 28 May 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/1639

Wolf Cardinalfish, Cheilodipterus artus Smith 1961

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Far northern Great Barrier Reef to the Capricorn Group, Queensland; also Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Timor Sea, and Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, Indo-west-central Pacific.
Forms small, loose aggregates in caves or just above coral branches in sheltered bays and lagoon patch reefs 5 to at least 20 m.

Similar Species

Juvenile Wolf Cardinalfish are very similar in coloration to juvenile Intermediate Cardinalfish, Cheilodipterus. intermedius. In adult C. artus, the black spot on the caudal peduncle of juveniles expands and covers the entire rear part of the caudal peduncle in adults. In adult C. intermedius, the rear part of the caudal peduncle usually becomes whitish.


The specific name is from the Latin artus (= compressed, close together) presumably in reference to the narrower and more closely-spaced body stripes of this species compared with those of Cheilodipterus lineatus (a synonym of the Tiger Cardinalfish, C. macrodon). 'This species, both  alive and preserved, is readily distinguished from closely related lineatus Lacepede, by the narrow stripes ...'

Species Citation

Cheilodipterus artus Smith 1961, Ichthyological Bulletin of the J.L.B. Smith Institute, Grahamstown 22: 409, pl. 50(F). Type locality: Mahé, Seychelles. 


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Wolf Cardinalfish, Cheilodipterus artus Smith 1961


Allen, G.R. 1993. Cardinalfishes (Apogonidae) of Madang Province, Papua New Guinea, with descriptions of three new species. Rev. Fr. Aquariol. 20(1): 9-20.

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. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1994. Fishes of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 412: 1-21 (misidentified as Cheilodipterus macrodon)

Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C. & Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2 edn, 284 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. 

Barnett, A., Bellwood, D.R. & Hoey, A.S. 2006. Trophic ecomorphology of cardinalfish, Marine Ecology Progress Series 322: 249-257

Gon, O. 1993. Revision of the cardinalfish genus Cheilodipterus (Perciformes: Apogonidae), with description of five new species. Indo-Pacific Fishes 22: 1-59 

Hoey, A.S., Bellwood, D.R. & Barnett, A. 2011. To feed or to breed: the morphological constraints of mouthbrooding. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2011.2769

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. & Kozawa, T. 2019. Cardinalfishes of the world. New ed. Seaford, Victoria : Aquatic Photographics, and Okazaki, Aichi, Japan : Anthias, Nexus: 1-198.

Mabuchi, K., Fraser, T.H., Song, H., Azuma, Y. & Nishida, M. 2014. Revision of the systematics of the cardinalfishes (Percomorpha: Apogonidae) based on molecular analyses and comparative reevaluation of morphological characters. Zootaxa 3846(2): 151–203

Marnane, M.J. & Bellwood, D.R. 2002. Diet and norturnal foraging in cardinalfishes (Apogonidae) at One Tree Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Marine Ecology Progress Series 231: 261-268. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps231261

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. 

Smith, J.L.B. 1961. Fishes of the family Apogonidae of the western Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Ichthyological Bulletin of the J.L.B. Smith Institute, Grahamstown 22: 373-418 figs 1-11 pls 46-52 http://hdl.handle.net/10962/d1018952

Underwood, J., Travers, M., Snow, M., Puotinen, M. & Gouws, G. 2018. Cryptic lineages in the Wolf Cardinalfish living in sympatry on remote coral atolls. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 132. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2018.12.001 

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37327086

Biology:Mouth brooder (males)

Depth:1-35 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:19 cm SL

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CAAB distribution map