Grey Morwong, Nemadactylus douglasii (Hector 1875)

Other Names: Blue Morwong, Butterfish, Douglas Morwong, Douglas' Morwong, Eastern Blue Morwong, Great Perch, Lubra-lip, Morwong, Mowie, Porae, Queen Snapper, Rubberlip Morwong, Rubber-lip Morwong, Rubberlip Perch, Silver Morwong

A Blue Morwong, Nemadactylus douglasii, in Jervis Bay, New South Wales. Source: Rick Stuart-Smith / Reef Life Survey. License: CC BY Attribution

A large silvery-blue to bluish-green morwong with a small mouth, thick rubbery lips and a single elongate ray in the pectoral fin that often extends well beyond the anal-fin origin. The Grey Morwong has blue dorsal and anal fins, a silvery belly, often yellowish to brownish tints on the upper sides, and a black rim around the anus. Juveniles have a dark blue blotch that fades with growth just below the middle of the lateral line.
Grey Morwong are taken both by offshore commercial and recreational anglers, and are considered very good eating.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Nemadactylus douglasii in Fishes of Australia, accessed 27 May 2024,

Grey Morwong, Nemadactylus douglasii (Hector 1875)

More Info


Moreton Bay, Queensland, to Wilsons Promontory, Victoria, and eastern Tasmania. Elsewhere the species occurs in New Zealand. Inhabits reefs and adjacent sandy areas, and may be seen by divers feeding over the sand. Juveniles usually occur at shallower depths than larger fish.


Dorsal fin XVII‑XVIII, 27‑28; Anal fin III, 16-17; Caudal fin 17; Pectoral fin 14‑15: Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line 53‑58.

Body moderately short and deep (40-45% SL), compressed; caudal peduncle very shallow. Head of moderate size (27‑31% SL), dorsal profile with shallow incline and slight depression above eyes in adults, without bony knobs on snout or in front of eyes; eyes of moderate size (26‑30% HL); mouth small, not reaching below eyes, lips thick and fleshy; teeth small, pointed, single row in each jaw embedded in lips, front of upper jaw with patch of smaller teeth behind principle row.

Scales moderately small, cycloid, covering body and much of head, scales on head much smaller than those on body; lateral line continuous, nearly straight. 

Dorsal fin continuous, with elongate base, originating above upper end of opercles, with little demarcation between spinous and soft portions, both portions of similar length, spinous portion moderately tall anteriorly, decreasing in height posteriorly, soft portion of uniformly low height; anal fin similar to and opposite, but slightly shorter than soft portion of dorsal fin; caudal fin forked, tips bluntly pointed. Pectoral fins of moderate size, rays branched dorsally, unbranched and thickened ventrally, uppermost simple ray greatly extended, reaching nearly to centre of anal fin.  Pelvic fins small, inserted distinctly below and behind pectoral‑fin origins.


Carnivore - feeds mostly on fishes, crustaceans and other benthic invertebrates.


The sexes are separate and Grey Morwong mature at lengths of 22-25 cm FL (fork length). Spawning occurs during Autumn and winter from about April to June. Like other morwong species, the larvae undergo an extended pelagic "paperfish" stage with a very thin (compressed) silvery body.
Individuals may reach 45 years of age.


Targeted by offshore commercial and recreational fisheries in New South Wales. Catches and average size of fish taken during the 1980s to early 2000s suggest that the stock has been substantially depleted (Stewart & Hughes 2009). 

Species Citation

Chilodactylus douglasii Hector, 1875, Trans. N. Zeal. Inst. 7: 244, pl. 10, fig. 11b, Type locality: Ngunguru Bay and Bay of Islands, New Zealand.


Bray, D.J. 2019


Atlas of Living Australia

Grey Morwong, Nemadactylus douglasii (Hector 1875)


Allan, R. 2002. Australian Fish and How to Catch Them. Sydney : New Holland Publishers (Australia) 394 pp.

Allen, G.R. & Heemstra, P.C. 1976. Cheilodactylus rubrolabiatus a new species of morwong (Pisces: Cheilodactlidae) from Western Australia, with a key to the cheilodactylid fishes of Australia. Records of the Australian Museum 4: 311-325. See ref online

Ayling, T. & Cox, G.J. 1982. Collins Guide to the Seafishes of New Zealand. Auckland : Collins 343 pp. 48 pls 475 figs.

Burridge, C.P. & White, R.W.G. 2000. Molecular phylogeny of the antitropical subgenus Goniistius (Perciformes: Cheilodactylidae: Cheilodactylus): evidence for multiple transequatoral divergences and non-monophyly. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 70: 435-458.

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

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

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

Francis, M. 2001. Coastal Fishes of New Zealand. Auckland : Reed Publishing (NZ) 3, 103 pp.

Grant, E.M. 1991. Fishes of Australia. Brisbane : EM Grant Pty Ltd 480 pp.

Hector, J. 1875. Notes on New Zealand ichthyology. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 7(34): 239-250 pls 10-11 [dated 1874]

Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp.

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)

Kailola, P.J., Williams, M.J., Stewart, P.C., Reichelt, R.E., McNee, A. & Grieve, C. 1993. Australian Fisheries Resources. Canberra : Bureau of Resource Sciences and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation 422 pp.

Kimura, K., Imamura, H. & Kawai, T. 2018. Comparative morphology and phylogenetic systematics of the families Cheilodactylidae and Latridae (Perciformes: Cirrhitoidea), and proposal of a new classification. Zootaxa 4536(1): 1-72. DOI:

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

Kuiter, R.H. 1994. Family Cheilodactylidae. pp. 644-655, figs 566-574 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs.

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.

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs.

Lowry, M. & Cappo, M. 1999. Morwongs. pp. 172-179 in Andrew, N. (ed.) Under Southern Seas — The ecology of Australia's rocky reefs. Sydney : University of New South Wales Press 238 pp.

Ludt, W.B., Burridge, C.P. & Chakrabarty, P. 2019. A taxonomic revision of Cheilodactylidae and Latridae (Centrarchiformes: Cirrhitoidei) using morphological and genomic characters. Zootaxa 4585 (1): 121–141,

McMillan, P.J., M.P. Francis, G.D. James, L.J. Paul, P.J Marriott, E. Mackay, B.A. Wood, L.H. Griggs, H. Sui & F. Wei, 2011. New Zealand fishes. Volume 1: A field guide to common species caught by bottom and midwater fishing. New Zealand Aquatic Environment and Biodiversity Report No. 68. 329 pp.

Marshall, T.C. 1964. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coastal Waters of Queensland. Sydney : Angus & Robertson 566 pp. 136 pls.

Paulin, C., Stewart, A., Roberts, C. & McMillan, P. 1989. New Zealand fish: a complete guide. National Museum of New Zealand Miscellaneous Series 19: 1-279.

Ramsay, E.P. & Ogilby, J.D. 1886. On an undescribed species of Chilodactylus from Port Jackson. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 2 1(3): 879-880 (p. 879, described as Chilodactylus morwong).

Roberts, C.D. & Gomon, M.F. 2008. Families Cheilodactylidae and Latridae. pp. 624-632 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Stewart J, Hughes JM. 2009. Biological and fishery characteristics of rubberlip morwong Nemadactylus douglasii (Hector, 1875) in eastern Australia. Fisheries Research 96(2-3):267-274. Abstract

Yearsley, G.K., Last, P.R. & Ward, R.D. (eds) 1999. Australian Seafood Handbook. Hobart : CSIRO Marine Research 460 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37377002

Depth:0-200 m

Fishing:Commercial and rec fish - good eating

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:81 cm FL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map