Australian Burrfish, Allomycterus pilatus Whitley 1931

Other Names: Deepwater Burrfish, Deepwater Porcupine Fish, Porcupinefish, Small-spined Porcupinefish

An Australian Burrfish, Allomycterus pilatus, at Auckland, New Zealand, September 2019. Source: emr_auckland / License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial


A robust pale olive-grey porcupinefish with a white belly, an olive and yellow blotch behind the eye and one below the dorsal-fin origin, and a blackish blotch behind the pectoral fin surrounded by spines with yellow bases. The body spines are short, robust and immovable.

Two forms are recognised: a shallow-water form with dark spots scattered on the back, and a deep-water form with yellow blotches on the sides.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Allomycterus pilatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 25 Nov 2020,

Australian Burrfish, Allomycterus pilatus Whitley 1931

More Info


Widespread in temperate waters of the southern half of Australia, from off Bustard Head Lighthouse, Queensland, to Rottnest Island, Western Australia, including around Tasmania. Elsewhere, the species occurs on seamounts off south-eastern Australia, on the Lord Howe Rise and the Norfolk Ridge in the Tasman Sea, and in New Zealand.

Although Australian Burrfish usually occur in deeper waters over the continental shelf, individuals occasionally enter coastal estuaries. They usually inhabit rocky reefs and weedy areas, mostly near the bottom in moderately shallow to deeper waters, but sometimes schooling in surface waters, in depths of 5-320 m.


Dorsal fin 16-18; Anal fin 15-16; Caudal fin 9; Pectoral fin 19-21.

Body robust, oval, covered in short, fixed, blade-like spines, each with a tripod-like base; an elongate erectile spine behind pectoral fin; no spines wholly on tail base; most spines shorter than eye diameter; dorsal fin with truncate hind margin, anal fin rounded, pectoral fin with shallow notch in hind margin.


To 50 cm TL.


Olive grey above, white below with an olive and yellow blotch behind eye and below dorsal-fin origin, a blackish blotch behind pectoral fin surrounded by spines with yellow bases. Deeper-water individuals may have yellow markings.


Usually feeds on bottom-living hard-shelled invertebrates.


Females spawn pelagic eggs and the larvae pass through a pelagic juvenile phase.


Although of no interest to fisheries, the species is occasionally taken in commercial trawls.


  • IUCN Red List : Data Deficient

Species Citation

Allomycterus pilatus Whitley 1931, Rec. Aust. Mus. 18(3): 125. Type locality: Botany Bay, New South Wales.


Bray, D.J. 2019


Atlas of Living Australia

Australian Burrfish, Allomycterus pilatus Whitley 1931


  • Gomon, M.F. 1994. Family Diodontidae. pp. 913-915, figs 805-806 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.
  • Gomon, M.F. 2008. Family Diodontidae. pp. 857-858 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.
  • Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. Pp. 180.
  • Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.
  • Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs.
  • Leis, J.M. 2006. Nomenclature and distribution of the species of the porcupinefish family Diodontidae (Pisces, Teleostei). Memoirs of Museum Victoria 63(1): 77–90
  • Leis, J.M. 2015. 249 Family Diodontidae. pp. 1741-1744 in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. (eds) The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 4 pp. 1153-1748.
  • Matsuura, K., Collette, B., Nelson, J., Dooley, J., Fritzsche, R. & Carpenter, K. 2010. Allomycterus pilatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T155007A4693011. Downloaded on 13 June 2018.
  • May, J.L. & Maxwell, J.G.H. 1986. Field Guide to Trawl Fish from Temperate Waters of Australia. Hobart : CSIRO Division of Marine Research 492 pp.
  • Phillipps, W.J. 1932. Notes on new fishes from New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Science and Technology 13(4): 226-234 figs 1-5 (described as Allomycterus whitleyi)
  • Thomson, J.M. 1978. A Field Guide to the Common Sea & Estuary Fishes of Non-tropical Australia. Sydney : Collins 144 pp.
  • Whitley, G.P. 1931. Studies in Ichthyology No. 4. Records of the Australian Museum 18(3): 96-133 figs 1-2 pls 11-16 DOI:10.3853/j.0067-1975.18.1931.720 Open access
  • Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37469002

    Conservation:IUCN Data Deficient

    Depth:5-320 m

    Habitat:Reef associated

    Max Size:50 cm TL

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