Fringelip Flathead, Sunagocia otaitensis (Cuvier 1829)

Other Names: Fringe Flathead, Fringe-lip Flathead

A Fringelip Flathead, Sunagocia otaitensis, at Madang, Papua New Guinea. Source: Roger Steene / FishBase. License: All rights reserved


Fringelip Flathead are well-camouflaged ambush predators and usually bury or partially bury themselves in the sand. They have rows of tiny warty papillae covering the lips. They are overall tannish in colour with 4-5 indistinct bands across the back and a combination of lighter and darker mottlings, flecks, blotches and spots to match their sandy surroundings.

Cite this page as:
CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research, Sunagocia otaitensis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 22 Jan 2020,

Fringelip Flathead, Sunagocia otaitensis (Cuvier 1829)

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Widespread in the tropical Indo-Pacific from East Africa to the Marquesa and Tuamotu islands, north to southern Japan and south to Australia. Fringelip Flathead are known from the continental shelf of northern Australia, from about Townsville, Queensland, to North West Cape, Western Australia. They are bottom-dwelling fishes and live on the sandy fronges of coral reefs in 3-40 m.


D IX, I,VIII, or I,VII,I , 11 or 12 (usually 11); A 11 or 12 (usually 12); P 19-22 (usually 20 or 21); V I, 5; Llat 50-54 (usually 52 or 53).

Body elongate, depressed. Head large (length 30-33% SL), moderately depressed; supraorbital ridge roughly serrated, bearing 4-10 spines on posterior half; suborbital ridge with 4 or 5 (rarely 3) spines; eyes large (21-26% HL), least interorbital width 7.9-12.2 in HL; no papilla on dorsal surface of eye; villiform teeth in broad bands on jaws and palatine, in two separate patches on vomer; lips with well developed papillae; sensory tubes from suborbital bones and peopercle weakly developed, extending to but not completely covering cheek region; preopercular spines 3, upper longest, not reaching posterior margin of opercle, not bearing a supplementary spine, lowermost smallest; base of lower opercular spine concealed by scales; interopercular not extended anteroventrally, without lobes. Scales small, mostly ctenoid, some cycloid on undersurface; oblique scale rows slanting downward and backward above lateral line about equal to number of lateral-line scales; lateral-line scales 50-54 (usually 52 or 53), anterior 1-3 lateral-line scales bearing a small spine. First dorsal fin spinous with short base, first spine very short, detached, following spines much longer. Second dorsal fin with moderately long base, anterior rays longest, nearly as long as longest first dorsal spines. Anal fin similar in shape, opposite and slightly longer-based than second dorsal fin. Caudal fin rounded posteriorly. Pectoral fins rounded posteriorly. Pelvic fin long, based below centre of pectoral fins, reaching beyond origin of anal fin.


To at least 25 cm TL, commonly to about 19 cm TL.


Dorsal head and body tan, mottled with white flecks or spots, 4 or 5 vague bands across back; whitish ventrally. Fins mottled or spotted, larger spots or blotches frequently present on pectoral, pelvic and caudal fins.


May be taken in trawls over sand near reefs.



Species Citation

Cottus otaitensis Cuvier (ex Parkinson), In Cuvier & Valenciennes 1829, Hist. Nat. Poiss. 4: Tahiti, Society Is.


CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research

Fringelip Flathead, Sunagocia otaitensis (Cuvier 1829)


Allen, G.R., R.C. Steene & M. Orchard. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island Natural History Association, Christmas Island, Indian Ocean, Australia. 284 p.

Beaufort, L.F., De & Briggs, J.C. (1962) The Fishes of the Indo-Australian Archipelago. XI. Brill, Leiden. 481 pp.

Chen, J. & Shao, K. (1993) A new record of flathead fish, Rogadius particiae (Platycephalidae), from Taiwan. Bull. Inst. Zool. Academia Sinica 32(2): 153-156.

Eschmeyer, W.N. (2008) The Catalogue of Fishes on-line. (California Academy of Sciences: San Francisco) Available from:  (10 March, 2008).

Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & Allen, G.R. (2006) Fishes. In: P.L. Beesley & A. Wells (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia Volume 35. Parts 1-3. Australian Biological Resources Study and CSIRO Publishing, 2248 pp.

Imamura, H. 1996. Phylogeny of the family Platycephalidae and related taxa (Pisces: Scorpaeniformes). Species Diversity 1( 2):123-233.

Imamura, H. (2003) Sungagocia, a new replacement name for the platycephalid genus Eurycephalus (Actinopterygii: Percomorpha), with taxonomic comments on the species of the genus. Species Diversity 8: 301-306.

Imamura, H., Ida, H. & Moyer, J.T. (1995) Redescription of a flathead, Thysanophrys otaitensis (Scorpaeniformes: Platycephalidae). Jpn. J. Ichthyol. 42(3/4): 277-283.

Knapp, L.W. (1986) Family No. 155: Platycephalidae (pp. 482-486). In: M.M. Smith & P.C. Heemstra (eds) Smiths' Sea Fishes. J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology, Grahamstown, South Africa, 1047 pp.

Knapp, L.W. (1999) Family Platycephalidae, flatheads, pp. 2385-2421. In: K.E. Carpenter & V.H. Niem (eds). FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes. The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 4: Bony Fishes Part 2 (Mugilidae to Carangidae). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.

Knapp, L.W. & Imamura, H. (2004) Sunagocia sainsburyi, a new flathead fish (Scorpaeniformes: Platycephalidae) from northwestern Australia. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 117(4): 545-550.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R.C. (1997) Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House, Bathurst, New South Wales, 557 pp.

Schultz, L.P., L.P. Woods & E.A. Lachner (1966) Fishes of the Marshall and Marianas islands. Vol. 3. Families Kraemeriidae through Antennariidae. Bulletin of the United States National Museum 202(3): 124-148.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37296046

Danger:venomous spines

Depth:0-10 m



Habitat:Sandy bottoms, near reef

Max Size:250

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