Purple Flying Gurnard, Dactyloptena orientalis (Cuvier 1829)

Other Names: Flying Gurnard, Indo-Pacific Flying Gurnard, Oriental Helmet Gurnard, Oriental Searobin, Purple Flying-gurnard

A Purple Flying Gurnard, Dactyloptena orientalis, at Dumaguete, Bacong, Central Visayas, Philippines. Source: Elias Levy / Flickr. License: CC BY Attribution

A greyish to pale brown helmet gurnard with large, dark-edged brown spots on the upper surface, and numerous orange to brown spots and wavy blue lines on the large pectoral fins.

Video of a Purple Flying Gurnard

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Dactyloptena orientalis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 May 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/4640

Purple Flying Gurnard, Dactyloptena orientalis (Cuvier 1829)

More Info


Recorded in Australia from north of Geraldton, Western Australia, around the tropical north to Merimbula, southern New South Wales; also the Lord Howe Province in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species is widespread in the tropical Red Sea and Indo-west-central Pacific: Red Sea, Persian Gulf and east Africa, to Hawaii and the Pitcairn Group.
Inhabits sandy areas in coastal waters, including around oceanic islands. This well-camouflaged solitary fish uses its pelvic and pectoral-fin rays to move slowly over the seafloor.


Dorsal fin I+I+V+9; Anal fin 6-7; Pectoral fin 32-35; Pelvic fin I, 4-5; Lateral scale series 45-47. 
Body heavily amoured, somewhat box-like, with large wing-like pectoral fins, each fin-ray with short-filaments extending along outer margin; fins reaching caudal-fin base or beyond when folded.


Feeds mostly on crustaceans, bivalve molluscs, and small fishes.


The specific name is from the Latin orientalis (= eastern, of the east), in reference to the type locality.

Species Citation

Dactylopterus orientalis Cuvier, 1829, Le Règne Animal 2 : 162. Type locality: Coromandel coast, India, eastern Indian Ocean (as Mer des Indies).


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Purple Flying Gurnard, Dactyloptena orientalis (Cuvier 1829)


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls.

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

Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls.

Cuvier, G.L. 1829. Le Règne Animal Distribué d'après son Organisation, pour servir de base à l'histoire naturelle des animaux et d'introduction à l'anatomie comparée. Poissons. Paris : Fortin, Masson et Co. Vol. 2 Ed. 2, pp. 122-406 See ref at BHL

Eschmeyer, W.N. 1997. A new species of Dactylopteridae (Pisces) from the Philippines and Australia, with a brief synopsis of the family. Bulletin of Marine Science 60(3): 727-738.

Francis, M.P. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 136-170 figs 1-2

Francis, M.P. 2019. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk and Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean Version: 2019.1 https://doi.org/ 10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4428305

Grant, E.M. 2002. Guide to Fishes. Redcliffe : EM Grant Pty Ltd 880 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)

Jordan, D.S. & Richardson, R.E. 1908. A review of the flatheads, gurnards, and other mail-cheeked fishes of the waters of Japan. Proceedings of the United States National Museum 33(1581): 629-670 figs 1-9

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

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.

Larson, H.K., Williams, R.S. & Hammer, M.P. 2013. An annotated checklist of the fishes of the Northern Territory, Australia. Zootaxa 3696(1): 1-293.

Motomura, H. & Matsuura, K. 2016. Dactyloptena orientalis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T50903234A53990827. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T50903234A53990827.en. Downloaded on 16 June 2018.

Ogilby, J.D. 1910. On new or insufficiently described fishes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland 23(1): 1-55. (described as a new species Ebisinus procne)

Poss, S.G. & Eschmeyer, W.N. 1999. Family Dactylopteridae. pp. 2283-2290 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 4 pp. 2069-2790.

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press 707 pp.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs.

Sainsbury, K.J., Kailola, P.J. & Leyland, G.G. 1985. Continental Shelf Fishes of Northern and North-Western Australia. Canberra : Fisheries Information Service 375 pp. figs & pls.

Whitley, G.P. 1929. Studies in Ichthyology No. 3. Records of the Australian Museum 17(3): 101-143 figs 1-5 pls 30-34

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37308004

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-145 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated, sandy areas

Max Size:40 cm TL

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map