Bullethead Parrotfish, Chlorurus sordidus (Forsskål 1775)

Other Names: Burnt Parrotfish, Daisy Parrotfish, Green Parrotfish, Greenfin Parrotfish, Green-finned Parrotfish, Indian Bullethead Parrotfish, Shabby Parrotfish

A Greenfin Parrotfish, Chlorurus sordidus, at Direction Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean. Source: sea kangaroo / iNaturalist. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives

Males (terminal phase) are greenish with pinkish to purplish scale margins, a pale yellowish to pinkish cheek, a bluish to pale purplish snout, and a pale green caudal peduncle.
Females (initial phase) are pale reddish-brown on the head and anterior body, becoming darker posteriorly with 3-4 vertical pairs of small white spots, and often a broad white area posteriorly enclosing a prominent black spot on the caudal peduncle.
Juveniles have alternating dark brown and white stripes along the head and body. 

Occurs in the Australian territories of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean. This species was previously thought to occur throughout the Indo-west-central Pacific, however, Chlorurus spilurus is the correct name for populations in mainland Australia.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Chlorurus sordidus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 Jun 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/396

Bullethead Parrotfish, Chlorurus sordidus (Forsskål 1775)

More Info


Known from the Australian territories of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical Red Sea, Indian Ocean.


Dorsal fin IX, 10; Anal fin III, 9; Pectoral fin 14-15; Predorsal scales (median) 4; Cheek scale rows 2

Similar Species

This species was previously considered to be widespread in the Indo-west-central Pacific. However, genetic studies of Howard Choat and colleagues indicated that the species was confined to the Indian Ocean, and it is replaced by the Greenfin Parrotfish, Chlorurus spilurus, sister species to C. sordidus, in the Pacific Ocean.


The specific name is from the Latin sordidus (= dirty), presumably in reference to the “fusco ferrugineo” (= rusty brown) body colour as described by Forsskål.

Species Citation

Scarus sordidus Forsskål 1775, Descriptiones Animalium: 30. Type locality: Red Sea off Hurghada, Egypt.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Bullethead Parrotfish, Chlorurus sordidus (Forsskål 1775)


Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Allen, G.R. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1994. Fishes of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 412: 1-21

Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C. & Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2 edn, 284 pp.

Bay, L.K., Choat, J.H., van Herwerden, L. & Robertson, D.R. 2004. High genetic diversities and complex genetic structure in an Indo-Pacific tropical reef fish (Chlorurus sordidus): evidence of an unstable evolutionary past? Marine Biology 144: 757-767.  

Beck, E. 2011. Comparative phylogeography of four Indo–Pacific scarine labrids: an insight into the evolutionary patterns of reef fish. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

Bellwood, D.R. & Choat, J.H. 1990. A functional analysis of grazing in parrotfishes (family Scaridae) : the ecological implications. Environmental Biology of Fishes 28: 189–214.

Bellwood, D.R. 1994. A phylogenetic study of the parrotfishes family Scaridae (Pisces: Labroidei), with a revision of genera. Records of the Australian Museum, Supplement 20: 1-86

Bellwood, D.R. 1985. The functional morphology, systematics and behavioural ecology of parrotfishes (Family Scaridae), Ph.D. thesis, James Cook University, Townsville. 

Bellwood, D.R. 1985. The functional morphology, systematics and behavioural ecology of parrotfishes (Family Scaridae), Ph.D. thesis, James Cook University, Townsville, 139 pp. PDF   

Choat, J.H., Carpenter, K.E., Clements, K.D., Rocha, L.A., Russell, B., Myers, R., Lazuardi, M.E., Muljadi, A., Pardede, S. & Rahardjo, P. 2012. Chlorurus sordidus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T190715A17795228. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2012.RLTS.T190715A17795228.en. Downloaded on 22 September 2016.

Choat, J.H., Clements, K.D. & Robbins, W.D. 2002. The tropic status of herbivorous fishes on coral reefs. 1. Dietary analyses, Marine Biology 140: 613-623.

Choat, J.H., Klanten, O.S., van Herwerden, L., Robertson, D.R. & Clements, K.D. 2012. Patterns and processes in the evolutionary history of parrotfishes ( Family Labridae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 107: 529-557. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8312.2012.01959.x

Comeros-Raynal, M.T., Choat, J.H., Polidoro, B.A., Clements, K.D., Abesamis, R., Craig, M.T., Lazuardi, M.E., McIlwain, J., Muljadi, A., Myers, R.F., Nañola Jr., C.L., Pardede, S., Rocha, L.A., Russell, B., Sanciangco, J.C., Stockwell, B., Harwell, H. and Carpenter, K.E. 2012. The likelihood of extinction of iconic and dominant components of coral reefs: the parrotfishes and surgeonfishes. PLoS ONE http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0039825.

Forsskål, P. 1775. Descriptiones Animalium Avium, Amphibiorum, Piscium, Insectorum, Vermium; quæ in Itinere Orientali observavit Petrus Forskål. Post Mortem Auctoris edidit Carsten Niebuhr. Adjuncta est Materia Medica Kakirina atque Tabula Maris Rubri Geographica. Hauniæ : Mölleri 1-19, i-xxxiv, 164 pp., 1 map. See ref at BHL

Hobbs, J-P.A., Newman, S.J., Mitsopoulos, G.E.A., Travers, M.J., Skepper, C.L., Gilligan, J.J., Allen, G.R., Choat, H.J. & Ayling, A.M. 2014. Checklist and new records of Christmas Island fishes: the influence of isolation, biogeography and habitat availability on species abundance and community composition. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 30: 184–202. See ref online

Hobbs, J-P.A., Newman, S .J., Mitsopoulos, G.E.A., Travers, M.J., Skepper, C.L., Gilligan, J.J., Allen, G.R., Choat, H.J. & Ayling, A.M. 2014. Fishes of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands: new records, community composition and biogeographic significance. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 30: 203–219. See ref online

Randall, J.E. & Bruce, R.W. 1983. The parrotfishes of the subfamily Scarinae of the Western Indian Ocean with descriptions of three new species. Ichthyological Bulletin of the J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology 47: 1-39.

Smith, L.L., Fessler, J.L., Alfaro, M.E., Streelman, J.T. & Westneat, M.W. 2008. Phylogenetic relationships and the evolution of regulatory gene sequences in the parrotfishes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 49: 136-152.

Westneat, M.W. & Alfaro, M.E. 2005. Phylogenetic relationships and evolutionary history of the reef fish family Labridae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 36: 370–390.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37386030


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-50 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:40 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map