Purple Tuskfish, Choerodon cephalotes (Castelnau 1875)

Other Names: Grass Parrot, Grass Tuskfish, Purple Tusk-fish, Tuskfish

A Purple Tuskfish, Choerodon cephalotes, in Nelson Bay, Port Stephens, New South Wlaes. Source: Trevor Hall / http://www.daveharasti.com. License: All rights reserved

A greenish-brown tuskfish becoming creamy-white below, blue-edged body scales on sides, some individuals with a with a dark patch on the upper side from behind the pectoral fin to upper part of the caudal peduncle, a 4-5 blue orange lines across the forehead, and many small orange spots on the cheek.
Body scales edged with blue giving sides uneven banded appearance. No small prominent black spot on side. A horizontally elongate dusky blotch present below centre of fin in some specimens. Head with many small orange spots on cheek, forehead crossed by 4 or 5 sets of alternating blue and orange stripes.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Choerodon cephalotes in Fishes of Australia, accessed 13 Jun 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/1921

Purple Tuskfish, Choerodon cephalotes (Castelnau 1875)

More Info


Shark Bay, Western Australia, to Sydney, New South Wales. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, West Pacific. Inhabits open rubble areas and seagrass beds at depths of 0.3–80 m. Juveniles occasionally occur on algal covered reefs in estuaries.


Dorsal fin XVI-XIII, 6-7; Anal fin III, 10; Pectoral fin rays ii, 16-17, dorsal-most ray of moderate length 36.4–53.1% pectoral fin length, ventral-most rays shorter than those above, posterior edge of fin obliquely straight, dorsoposterior corner bluntly pointed, posteroventral corner angular. 
Body moderately deep, 37.0–42.2% SL, head depth 27.9–36.8% SL, caudal peduncle depth 12.1–17.8% SL; head blunt, dorsal profile of snout steep, snout length 12.8– 18.3% SL; second prominent anterior canine in lower jaw distinctly smaller than first in adults, directed dorsolaterally and curved slightly posteriorly.
Predorsal scales approximately 5 or 6, reaching forward on dorsal midline to above posterior edge of preopercle; cheek with small mostly embedded scales in about 1–5 diagonal rows, posteriormost with about 4 or 5 scales to upper extent of free preopercular edge, variably reaching forward from below eye posteriorly to nearly corner of upper lip crease above mouth, with very broad naked margin posteriorly and ventrally on preopercle; tiny patch of about 1–3 scales in one or two rows on dorsal end of subopercle adjacent preopercular edge; each lateral line scale with multiple branching laterosensory canal tube; scales above lateral line about 3½; cephalic sensory canal pores extremely numerous especially anteriorly and posteriorly in front of predorsal scales; second pair of canines in lower jaw directed anterodorsally and curved slightly to strongly laterally. 
Dorsal and anal fins with low basal sheath comprising 1–3 progressively smaller accessory scales at deepest; posterior lobe of dorsal and anal fins reaching well past hypural crease in large individuals; caudal fin rounded to broadly pointed centrally; pelvic fin reaching to base of second anal fin ray in large individuals, length 22.0–33.2% SL.


Body scales edged with blue giving sides uneven banded appearance. No small prominent black spot on side. A horizontally elongate dusky blotch present below centre of fin in some specimens. Head with many small orange spots on cheek, forehead crossed by 4 or 5 sets of alternating blue and orange stripes.


Feeds mostly on hard-shelled prey including crabs, molluscs and sea urchins.


Taken in recreational and commercial fisheries in northern Australia.


The species may also occur in south-eastern Indonesia.


The specific name cephalotes is from the Greek kephalotos meaning “headed”, possibly in reference to the large colourful head of this species.

Species Citation

Choerops cephalotes Castelnau 1875, Intercolonial Exhibition Essays 2: 39. Type locality: Cape York.


Bray, D.J. 2017


Australian Faunal Directory

Choerops perpulcher De Vis, 1885: 877, Moreton Bay (Queensland)
Choerodon macleayi Ramsay & Ogliby, 1887a: 241, Port Jackson (New South Wales)
Choerops Hodgkinsonii Saville-Kent, 1893: 296, 370, pl. 15, fig. 2, Port Denison (Queensland)

Purple Tuskfish, Choerodon cephalotes (Castelnau 1875)


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. 

Blaber, S.J.M., Brewer, D.T. & Harris, A.N.1994. Distribution, biomass and community structure of demersal fishes of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia. Aust. J. Mar. Freshwat. Res. 45(3): 375-396.

Blaber, S.J.M., Brewer, D.T. & Salini, J.P. 1992. A checklist of the fishes of Groote Eylandt, north-western Gulf of Carpentaria. Report 218. Hobart : CSIRO Marine Laboratories 14 pp. 

Castelnau, F.L. de 1875. Researches on the fishes of Australia. Intercolonial Exhibition Essays. 2. pp. 1–52 in, Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 : Official Record. Melbourne. 

De Vis, C.W. 1885. New fishes in the Queensland Museum. No. 5. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 9(4): 869-887.

Fairclough, D.V., Clark, K.R., Valesini, F.J. & Potter, I.C. 2008. Habitat partitioning by five congeneric and abundant Choerodon species (Labridae) in a large subtropical marine embayment. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 77: 446-456.

Gloerfelt-Tarp, T. & Kailola, P.J. 1984. Trawled Fishes of Southern Indonesia and Northwest Australia. Jakarta : Dir. Gen. Fish. (Indonesia), German Tech. Coop., Aust. Dev. Ass. Bur. 406 pp. 

Gomon, M.F. 2017. A review of the tuskfishes, genus Choerodon (Labridae, Perciformes), with descriptions of three new species. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 76: 1-111 DOI: http://doi.org/10.24199/j.mmv.2017.76.01Open access

Grant, E.M. 1991. Fishes of Australia. Brisbane : EM Grant Pty Ltd 480 pp. 

Hanel, R., Westneat, M.W. & Sturmbauer, C. 2002. Phylogenetic relationships, evolution of broodcare behavior, and geographic speciation in the wrasse Tribe Labrini. J. Molec. Evol. 55: 776-789.
Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Biodiversity of shallow reef fish assemblages in Western Australia using a rapid censusing technique. Records of the Western Australian Museum 20: 247-270 

Hutchins, J.B. 2003. Checklist of marine fishes of the Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia. pp. 453-478 in Wells, F.E., Walker, D.I., & Jones, D.S. (eds). Proceedings of the Eleventh International Marine Biological Workshop: The Marine Flora and Fauna of Dampier, Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum. 

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) 

Johnson, J.W. & Gill, A.C. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of Sweers Island, Gulf of Carpentaria. Gulf of Carpentaria Scientific Study Report. Geography Monograph Series. Brisbane: Royal Geographic Society of Queensland. pp. 239-260 

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. 2010. Labridae fishes: wrasses. Seaford, Victoria, Australia : Aquatic Photographics pp. 398. 

Ogilby, J.D. 1913. Ichthyological notes. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 2: 90-93.

Puckridge, M., P.R. Last & N. Andreakis. 2015. The role of peripheral endemism and habitat associations in the evolution of the Indo-West Pacific tuskfishes (Labridae:Choerodon). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 84: 64-72. Abstract 

Ramsay, E.P. & Ogilby, J.D. 1887. Descriptions of new Australian fishes. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 2 2: 241-243.

Ramm, D.C., Pender, P.J., Willing, R.S. & Buckworth, R.C. 1990. Large-scale spatial patterns of abundance within the assemblage of fish caught by prawn trawlers in Northern Australian waters. Aust. J. Mar. Freshwat. Res. 41(1): 79-95.

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 

Russell, B.C. & Houston, W. 1989. Offshore fishes of the Arafura Sea. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 6(1): 69-84 

Sainsbury, K.J., Kailola, P.J. & Leyland, G.G. 1984. Continental Shelf Fishes of Northern and North-Western Australia. Canberra : Fisheries Information Service 375 pp. figs & pls. 

Saville-Kent, W. 1893. The Great Barrier Reef of Australia; its Products and Potentialities. London : W.H. Allen & Co., Limited. [xiii] + 388 pp. 21 figs 64 pls. 

To, A., Liu, M., Pollard, D., Russell, B., Myers, R. & Sadovy, Y. 2010. Choerodon cephalotes. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T187430A8533591. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-4.RLTS.T187430A8533591.en. Downloaded on 11 September 2017.

Westneat, M.W. 2001. Labridae. pp. 3381-3467 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.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37384004


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-80 m

Habitat:Reef associated, rubble/weedy areas

Max Size:35+ cm TL


Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map