Southern Grubfish, Parapercis australis Randall 2003

A Southern Grubfish, Parapercis australis, in North Bay, Lord Howe Island, Tasman Sea. Source: Andrew J. Green / Reef Life Survey. License: CC BY Attribution

A small and elongate bottom dwelling fish with a whitish-grey body, a series of dark brown blotches along the side, and a vertical bar beneath the eye. Until the Southern Grubfish was described (Randall 2003), in Australia, this species was previously known as Parapercis cylindrica.

Video of a Southern Grubfish being devoured by a venomous cone shell.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Parapercis australis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 08 Apr 2020,

Southern Grubfish, Parapercis australis Randall 2003

More Info


Known from the Torres Strait Islands and northern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, to Sydney Harbour, New South Wales, also Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, south-west Pacific (New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga). 
Inhabits rubble and seagrass areas adjacent to coral reefs, especially in sheltered lagoons.


Dorsal fin V, 20-21; Anal  fin I, 17; Pectoral fin 14-16; Lateral line scales 48-59; Gill rakers 3-4 + 6-8; Predorsal scales 5-6.
Body depth 4.35-4.9 in SL (20.5-23.0% SL); lower jaw with 10 canine teeth at front; vomerine teeth in a broad chevron pattern; palatine teeth present; upper edge of subopercle with a prominent sharp spine; posterior edge of preopercle sometimes slightly irregular or partially finally serrate; cheek with ctenoid scales.
Thrid dorsal-fin spine longest, 9.5-10.6% SL; membrane from last dorsal-fin spine joined to base of first dorsal-fin soft ray;  caudal fin slightly rounded, 22.9-24.0% SL.


A benthic carnivore feeding on crustaceans, polychaete worms and other invertebrates.


The species is a protogynous hermaphrodite, capable of changing sex from female to male. At Lizard Island, males maintain a harem-like breeding group of 2 to 10 females per male. Females defend territories from other females, whereas males defend larger areas that encompass the territories of all females in the harem.
Males are larger than females and individuals grow rapidly following transition from female to male. At Lizard Island, individuals were found to be very short-lived, with a maximum age of 411 days. 

Similar Species

Although similar in colour to Parapercis cylindrica (which does not occur in Australia), the Southern Grubfish lacks the yellow caudal fin of P. cylindrica.


The species is named australis from the Latin for 'southern', in reference to its localities, all south of 14┬░south latitude.

Species Citation

Parapercis australis Randall, 2003, Occ. Pap. B. P. Bishop Mus. 72: 4, figs 2-5. Type locality: One Tree Island, Capricorn Group, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, rubble and sand bottom next to lagoon patch reef, 3 m. 


Dianne J. Bray


Australlian Faunal Dierectory

Southern Grubfish, Parapercis australis Randall 2003


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

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. (as Parapercis cylindrica)

Leis, J.M. 1986. Vertical and horizontal distribution of fish larvae near coral reefs at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef. Marine Biology 90: 505-516. (as Parapercis cylindrica)

McCormick, M.I. & A.S. Hoey. 2004. Larval growth history determines juvenile growth and survival in a tropical marine fish. Oikos 106: 225-242. (as Parapercis cylindrica)

Randall, J.E. 2001. Pinguipedidae. pp. 3501-3510 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. (as Parapercis cylindrica)

Randall, J.E. 2003. Review of the sandperches of the Parapercis cylindrica complex (Perciformes: Pinguipedidae), with description of two new species from the western Pacific. Bishop Museum Occasional Papers 72: 1-19.

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii. 720 pp.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii. 506 pp.(as Parapercis cylindrica)

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. (as Parapercis cylindrica)

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

Sprenger, D., N.J. Dingemanse, N.A. Dochtermann, J. Theobald & S.P.W. Walker. 2012. Aggressive females become aggressive males in a sex-changing reef fish. Ecology Letters 15: 986-992. (as Parapercis cylindrica)

Walker, S.P.W. 2009. Phenotypic plasticity across natural- and sexual-selection gradients in a reef fish, Ph.D. thesis, James Cook University. (as Parapercis cylindrica)

Walker, S.P.W. & M.I. McCormick. 2004. Otolith-check formation and accelerated gorwth associated with sex change in an annual protogynous tropical fish. Marine Ecology Progress Series 266: 201-212. (as Parapercis cylindrica)

Walker, S.P.W. & M.I. McCormick. 2009. Sexual selection explains sex-specific growth plasticity and positive allometry for sexual size dimorphism in a reef fish. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276: 3335-3343. (as Parapercis cylindrica)

Walker, S.P.W. & M.I. McCormick. 2009. Fish ears are sensitive to sex change, Biology Letters 5: 73-76. (as Parapercis cylindrica)

Walker, S.P.W., L. Thibault & M.I McCormick. 2010. Density-dependent sex ratio adjustment and the Allee effect: a model and a test using a sex-changing fish. The American Naturalist 176: 10. (as Parapercis cylindrica)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37390010

Biology:Able to change sex

Depth:1-15 m

Habitat:Reef associated, silty & rubble areas

Max Size:10 cm SL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map