Southern Maori Wrasse, Ophthalmolepis lineolata (Valenciennes 1839)

Other Names: Australian Maori-wrasse, Butcher's Prick, Maori, Maori Parrotfish, Maori Wrasse, Rainbow-fish

A male (terminal phase) Southern Maori Wrasse, Ophthalmolepis lineolata, at North West Solitary Island, New South Wales. Source: Ian V. Shaw / Reef Life Survey. License: CC by Attribution


An easily recognised wrasse with broad brownish, white and yellow stripes along the sides and distinctive blue lines and 'scribbles' on the head. 

Females and juveniles are reddish-orange above, white along the mid-sides and yellowish-brown below. Males are yellowish brown above, yellowish-brown below, with an irregular black stripe below the white midlateral stripe. Males also have blue spots on the scale margins

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Ophthalmolepis lineolata in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 Apr 2024,

Southern Maori Wrasse, Ophthalmolepis lineolata (Valenciennes 1839)

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Endemic to the southern half of Australia, from the Sunshine Coast, southern Queensland, to the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia. Although relatively rare in the Bass Strait region, the species is common and widespread elsewhere throughout its range. 

Inhabits exposed rocky reefs, with a preference for kelp and urchin barren habitats. The species is most abundant on deeper urchin-grazed reefs, where adults often aggregate in large numbers. Juveniles are more solitary and usually inhabit bays, harbours and estuaries. 


Dorsal fin IX, 12-13; Anal fin  III, 13; Caudal fin 12; Pectoral fin 14; Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line scales 52-56.

Body moderately shallow (approx. 30% SL), moderately elongate, compressed. Head of moderate size (approx. 26% SL), dorsal profile convex; eyes small (approx. 20% HL); mouth small, upper jaw not reaching as far as eye; teeth conical, in single series, anterior pair in each jaw enlarged and outwardly curved. 

Scales small, cycloid, firmly attached, covering body but not head, body scales not extending onto base of dorsal and anal fins; lateral line bent abruptly downwards beneath soft dorsal fin. 

Dorsal fin continuous, with an elongate base and uniform height; anal fin similar to and opposite rear half of dorsal fin; caudal fin truncate. Pectoral fins short, upper rays longest. Pelvic fins short, arising beneath pectoral-fin bases, not reaching near anus.


To 47 cm TL


Juveniles and females are reddish-orange on the upper half of the body, and reddish-orange and white on the lower half. Adult males are reddish-brown above, yellowish-brown below; with a broad white mid-lateral stripe, body scales with blue spots sometimes forming indistinct narrow vertical bands; head and throat with blue bands and markings; dorsal and anal fins with narrow blue longitudinal lines and markings; caudal fin with blue spots.


Feeds on benthic invertebrates such as polychaete worms, gastropod and bivalve molluscs, small crustaceans and echinoids.


Protogynous hermaphrodites, changing sex from female to male during their life cycle. At about 2 years of age and around 18 cm TL in length, juveniles change sex to become females (intermediate phase). At about 5 years of age and between 27 and 34 cm TL, females then change sex into the terminal phase males. Longevity is about 14 years.

In eastern Australia, Southern Maori Wrasse spawn during summer with peak spawning from January to March. In Western Australia, they spawn during Spring and Summer.


Fished recreationally and commercially on hook and line near exposed reefs in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, but rarely in Victorian waters. Also taken as a bycatch in the giant crab and rock lobster trap fishery.


The common name is for the blue markings on the head that supposedly resemble tattoos of New Zealand Maori peoples.


The specific name is from the Latin lineolatus (= having lines, lined), presumably in reference to the blue lines on the head of adults.

Species Citation

Julis lineolatus Valenciennes, 1839, Hist. Nat. Poiss. 13: 436. Type locality: Port Western, Victoria.


Bray, D.J. 2019


Atlas of Living Australia

Southern Maori Wrasse, Ophthalmolepis lineolata (Valenciennes 1839)


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37384040


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-60 m

Fishing:Recreational & minor commercial

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:47 cm TL


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