Rock Cale, Aplodactylus lophodon (Günther 1859)

Other Names: Cockatoo Fish, Cocky, Joey, Rock Cocky, Sea Carp

A Rock Cale, Aplodactylus lophodon, at Shelly Beach, New South Wales, Australia. Source: Dave Harasti / License: All rights reserved

A large greyish to bluish-black fish with pale mottling on the sides, a dark saddle beneath the middle of the spinous dorsal fin, a series of five evenly spaced white dashes or blotches on the sides below the lateral line from above pectoral fin to below end of dorsal fin, and pale spots on the fins.

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

Rock Cale, Aplodactylus lophodon (Günther 1859)

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Recorded in Australia from Mudjimba, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, to the Gippsland Lakes, Victoria, and Babel Island, Tasmania. 

Usually found amongst kelp and other macroalgae on exposed rocky shores, often in the exposed intertidal surf zone to about 10 m. The Rock Cale is common on coastal reefs in central New South Wales.


Dorsal fin XVII, 18-20; Anal fin III, 6 -7;  Pectoral fin i, 13-15; Lateral line scales 72-82; Gill rakers 6-8 + 12-16 = 18-24; Vertebrae 35.

Body elongate, greatest depth 3.1-4.2 in SL; head length 4.1-4.5 in SL; snout short, 3.0-3.4 in head; dorsal profile of head rounded; orbital diameter 3.9-4.7 inhead; interorbital space more or less straight or slightly convex medially, least width of interorbital 3.9-4.7 in head; least depth of caudal peduncle 2.1-2.5 in head; peduncle length 2.0-3.0 in head. Mouth small, somewhat ventral on head; lips fleshy, upper lip projecting, maxilla reaching a vertical through posterior nostril; teeth small, mainly tricuspid, a few lanceolate, in 3 to 4 rows in jaws, outermost row of teeth largest; vomerine teeth absent; two pairs of nostrils, anterior pair with fleshy tentaculate flaps on anteroventral and posteroventral margins; opercle with broad flat spine which does not extend to the fleshy margin. 

Dorsal fin long-based, with elongate notch between spinous and soft parts of fin, basal length of soft dorsal fin 1.2-1.3 in length of spinous part; anal fin short, basal length 1.8-2.8 in head; pectoral fin length 0.9-1.1 in head, ventral-most 5 to 6 rays simple, fleshy; pelvic fin length 1.1-1.3 in head, rays fleshy. 

Scales small, cycloid, embedded, extending on to cheeks and opercles, and forming a sheath along base of spinous dorsal fin.


Variable in colour from grey to bluish-black, with whitish mottling on sides and whitish spots on fins; a dark saddle beneath middle of spinous dorsal fin, and a series of five evenly spaced white blotches on sides below lateral line from above pectoral fin to below end of dorsal fin; juveniles with a distinct black mark on posterodorsal edge of opercle.


Feeds on weeds and algae, including Corallina pilulifera, and smaller amounts of Ulva actuca, Jania and filamentous algae such as Sphacelaria sp.


The Rock Cale has been listed as Crinodus lophodon in older publications.

Similar Species

Among other characters, the Rock Cale has larger and fewer body scales than the Marblefish, Aplodactylus arctidens (lateral-line scales 72-82 vs. 83-120) and also lacks vomerine teeth.

Species Citation

Haplodactylus lophodon Günther, 1859: 435, pl. XXIII, Fig B. Type locality: New South Wales.


Bray, D.J. 2019


Australian Faunal Directory

Rock Cale, Aplodactylus lophodon (Günther 1859)


Burridge, C.P. 2000. Molecular phylogeny of the Aplodactylidae (Perciformes: Cirrhitoidea), a group of Southern Hemisphere marine fishes. Journal of Natural History 34(11): 2173-2185.

Castelnau, F.L. de 1879. Essay on the ichthyology of Port Jackson. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 3(4): 347-402 (as Aplodactylus obscurus and A. lophodon)

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

Edgar, G.J. 1997. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Reed Books. 544 pp.

Edgar, G.J. 2000. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Sydney : Reed New Holland Revised Edn, 544 pp. 

Edgar, G.J. 2008. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Sydney : Reed New Holland 2nd edn, 624 pp. 

Gill, T.N. 1862. Synopsis of the family of cirrhitoids. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 14(3): 102-122 

Günther, A. 1859. Catalogue of the Fishes in the British Museum. Catalogue of the acanthopterygian fishes in the collection of the British Museum. Gasterosteidae, Berycidae, Percidae, Aphredoderidae, Pristipomatidae, Mullidae, Sparidae. London : British Museum Vol. 1 524 pp.

Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. 180 pp.

Johnson, J.W. 1999. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 43(2): 709-762.

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3)

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal fishes of south-eastern Australia. University of Hawaii Press. Honolulu, Hawaii. 437 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. 433 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. 437 pp.

Neira, F.J., A.G. Miskiewicz & T. Trnski. 1998. Larvae of temperate Australian fishes: laboratory guide for larval fish identification. University of Western Australia Press. 474 pp.

Russell, B.C. 2000. Review of the southern temperate fish family Aplodactylidae (Pisces: Perciformes). Journal of Natural History 34: 2157-2171.

Russell, B.C. 2008. Family Aplodactylidae. pp. 623-624 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast.Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37376002

Depth:1-30 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:45 cm SL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map