Painted Morwong, Morwong ephippium McCulloch & Waite 1916

A Painted Morwong, Morwong ephippium, at Lord Howe Island, December 2008. Source: Erik Schlogl / License: CC BY Attribution-NonCommercial

A reddish-brown to brown morwong with irregular spots, a broad pale diagonal bar from the nape to behind the pectoral-fin base and onto the pale belly, a second shorter bar from below the dorsal fin spines to just below the middle of the body, and a series of pale spots or a broad stripe following the soft dorsal-fin base. 
Prior to the revision of Ludt et al. (2019), this species was known as Cheilodactylus ephippium and was placed in the family Cheilodactylidae. 
Video of Painted Morwongs

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Morwong ephippium in Fishes of Australia, accessed 01 Mar 2024,

Painted Morwong, Morwong ephippium McCulloch & Waite 1916

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Recorded in Australia from Broughton Island to Montague Island, New South Wales; also in the Lord Howe Province, and Norfolk Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the Kermadec Islands, New Zealand.


Feeds by sifting small invertebrates from the sediment.


The specific name is from the Latin ephippium (= saddle).

Species Citation

Cheilodactylus (Goniistius) ephippium McCulloch & Waite, 1916, Trans. Roy. Soc. S. Aust. 40: 445, Pl. 43 (fig. 2). Type locality: Norfolk Island.


Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

Painted Morwong, Morwong ephippium McCulloch & Waite 1916


Allen, G.R. & Heemstra, P.C. 1976. Cheilodactylus rubrolabiatus, a new species of morwong (Pisces : Cheilodactylidae) from Western Australia, with a key to the cheilodactylid fishes of Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 4(4): 311-325 figs 1-2 (as Cheilodactylus ephippiumSee ref online

Allen, G.R., Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Randall, J.E., Russell, B.C., Starck, W.A., Talbot, F.H. & Whitley, G.P. 1976. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30(15): 365-454 figs 1-2. (as Goniistius ephippium)

Ayling, T. & Cox, G.J. 1982. Collins Guide to the Seafishes of New Zealand. Auckland : Collins 343 pp. 48 pls 475 figs. (as Cheilodactylus ephippium)

Burridge, C.P. & White, R.W.G. 2000. Molecular phylogeny of the antitropical subgenus Goniistius (Perciformes: Cheilodactylidae: Cheilodactylus): evidence for multiple transequatorial divergences and non-monophyly. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 70: 435-458, (as Cheilodactylus ephippium)

Choat, J.H., van Herwerden, L., Robbins, W.D., Hobbs, J.P. & Ayling, A.M. 2006. A report on the ecological surveys undertaken at Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs, February 2006. Report by James Cook University to the Department of the Environment and Heritage. 65 pp. (as Cheilodactylus ephippium)

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

Eddy, T.D. 2011. Recent observations of reef fishes at the Kermadec Islands marine reserve, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 45(1): 153-159.(as Cheilodactylus ephippium)

Edgar, G.J. 2008. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Sydney : Reed New Holland 2, 624 pp. (as Cheilodactylus ephippium)

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 (as Cheilodactylus ephippium)

Francis, M. 2001. Coastal Fishes of New Zealand. Auckland : Reed Publishing (NZ) 3, 103 pp. (as Cheilodactylus ephippium)

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

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

Kimura, K., H. Imamura, H. & Kawai, T. 2018. Comparative morphology and phylogenetic systematics of the families Cheilodactylidae and Latridae (Perciformes: Cirrhitoidea), and proposal of a new classification. Zootaxa 4536(1): 1-72. (as Goniistius ephippium

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

Lowry, M. & Cappo, M. 1999. Morwongs. pp. 172-179 in Andrew, N. (ed.). Under Southern Seas -— The ecology of Australia's rocky reefs. Sydney : University of New South Wales Press 238 pp. (as Cheilodactylus ephippium)

Ludt, W.B., Burridge, C.P. & Chakrabarty, P. 2019. A taxonomic revision of Cheilodactylidae and Latridae (Centrarchiformes: Cirrhitoidei) using morphological and genomic characters. Zootaxa 4585 (1): 121–141,

McCulloch, A.R. & Waite, E.R. 1916. Additions to the fish fauna of Lord Howe Island. No. 5. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 40: 437-451 pls 40-43 See ref at BHL

Oxley, W.G., Ayling, A.M., Cheal, A.J. & Osborne, K. 2004. Marine surveys undertaken in the Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs Marine National Nature Reserve, December 2003. Townsville : Australian Institute of Marine Sciences 64 pp.  (as Goniistius ephippium)

Paulin, C., Stewart, A., Roberts, C. & McMillan, P. 1989. New Zealand fish: a complete guide. National Museum of New Zealand Miscellaneous Series 19: 1-279. (as Cheilodactylus ephippium)

Randall, J.E. 2001. Cirrhitidae, Cheilodactylidae. pp. 3321-3330 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 5 2791-3379 pp.

Roberts, C.D. 2015. 199 Family Cheilodactylidae, pp. 1347-1357, in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. (eds). The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 4 pp. 1153-1748. (as Cheilodactylus ephippium)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37377011

Depth:2-60 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:35 cm

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