Bluestriped Fangblenny, Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos (Bleeker 1852)

Other Names: Blue-lined Blenny, Blue-lined Sabretooth Blenny, Tube-worm Blenny, Twostripe Blenny

A Bluestriped Fangblenny, Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos, at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Source: Graham Edgar / Reef Life Survey. License: CC BY Attribution

The Bluestriped Fangblenny uses aggressive mimicry to attack larger coral reef fishes and feed on their scales and body tissue. The fangblenny is able to readily approach potential victims by mimicing juveniles of the Common Cleanerfish Labroides dimidiatus, which removes ectoparasites from other fishes. This species has several colour forms, and are capable of changing their appearance based on presence or absence of juvenile cleaner fish, which have a blackish body with an electric-blue stripe along the side.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Apr 2024,

Bluestriped Fangblenny, Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos (Bleeker 1852)

More Info


From the Albany region, Western Australia, around the tropical north to southern New South Wales; also Ashmore Reef, Timor Sea, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean, reefs in the Coral Sea, and Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, temperate, Indo-west-central Pacific.


Not only does P. rhinorhynchos mimic juvenile cleaner fish (Labroides dimidiatus), it can rapidly change colour to blend in with a school of reef fish (typically Pseudanthias spp. and Leptojulis cyanopleura. This may allow the camouflaged fangblenny to change colour in the presence of L. dimidiatus and suddenly emerge from a amongst a school of reef fish to attack passers-by in the guise of a cleaner fish.

Species Citation

Petroskirtes rhinorhynchos Bleeker, Natuurkundig Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch Indië 3: 237, 239, 273. Type locality: Wahia, Ceram, Indonesia.


Bray, D.J. 2017


Australian Faunal Directory

Bluestriped Fangblenny, Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos (Bleeker 1852)


Allen, G.R. 1993. Fishes of Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 44: 67-91 

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., Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Randall, J.E., Russell, B.C., Starck, W.A., Talbot, F.H. & Whitley, G.P. 1976. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30(15): 365-454 figs 1-2

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. 1988. Fishes of Christmas Island Indian Ocean. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 197 pp.  

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

Bleeker, P. 1852. Bijdrage tot de kennis der ichthyologische fauna van de Moluksche eilanden. Visschen van Amboina en Ceram. Natuurkundig Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch Indië 3: 229-309

Cheney, K.L. 2013. Cleaner fish coloration decreases predation risk in aggressive fangblenny mimics. Behavioral Ecology 24(5): 1161–1165. doi:10.1093/beheco/art043 PDF Open Access

Cheney KL. 2008. The role of avoidance learning in an aggressive mimicry system. Behav Ecol. 19: 583–588.

Cheney KL. 2010. Multiple selective pressures apply to a coral reef fish mimic: a case of Batesian-aggressive mimicry. Proc R Soc Lond B. 277: 1849–1855.

Cheney, K.L. 2012. Cleaner wrasse mimics inflict higher costs on their models when they are more aggressive towards signal receivers. Biology Letters doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.0687 Open Access

Cheney KL, Bshary R, Grutter AS. 2008. Cleaner fish cause predators to reduce aggression toward bystanders at cleaning stations. Behav Ecol. 19: 1063–1067.

Cheney, K.L. & Côté, I.M. 2005. Frequency-dependent success of aggressive mimics in a cleaning symbiosis. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 272(1581): 2635-2639. Open Access

Cheney, K.L. & Côté, I.M. 2007. Aggressive mimics profit from a model–signal receiver mutualism. Proceedings of the Royal Society B  274(1622): 2087-2091 Open Access

Cheney KL, Cortesi F, Nilsson Sköld K. 2017. Regulation, constraints and benefits of colour plasticity in a mimicry system. Biol J Linn Soc blx057. doi: 10.1093/biolinnean/blx057 Abstract

Cheney KL, Grutter AS, Blomberg SP, Marshall NJ. 2009. Blue and yellow signal cleaning behavior in coral reef fishes. Curr. Biol. 19: 1283–1287.

Cheney KL, Grutter AS, Marshall NJ. 2008. Facultative mimicry: cues for colour change and colour accuracy in a coral reef fish. Proc R Soc Lond B. 275(1631): 117–122. Open Access

Cheney KL, Newport C, McClure E, Marshall NJ. 2013. Colour vision and response bias in a coral reef fish. J Exp Biol. doi: 10.1242/jeb.087932

Cheney KL, Skogh C, Hart NS, Marshall NJ. 2009. Mimicry, colour forms and spectral sensitivity of the bluestriped fangblenny, Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos. Proc R Soc Lond B. 276: 1565–1573.

Côté IM, Cheney KL. 2004. Distance-dependent costs and benefits of aggressive mimicry in a cleaning symbiosis. Proc R Soc Lond B. 271: 2627–2630.

Côté, I.M. & K.L. Cheney. 2005. Animal mimicry: Choosing when to be a cleaner-fish mimic - a dangerous fish can discard a seemingly harmless disguise to suit its circumstances. Nature 433: 211-212. | doi:10.1038/433211a Abstract

Côté IM, Cheney KL. 2007. A protective function for aggressive mimicry? Proc R Soc Lond B. 274: 2445–2448.

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Hutchins, J.B. & Thompson, M. 1983. The Marine and Estuarine Fishes of South-western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 103 pp. 345 figs. 

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) 

Johnson ML, Hull SL (2006) Interactions between fangblennies (Plagiotremus rhinorhynchus) and their potential victims: fooling the model rather than the client? Marine Biology 148: 889–897. doi: 10.1007/s00227-005-0118-y Abstract

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Schultz, L.P. & Chapman, W.M. 1960. Subfamily Salarinae. pp. 302-382 in Schultz, L.P., Chapman, W.M., Lachner, E.A. & Woods, L.P. (eds). Fishes of the Marshall and Marianas Islands. Vol. 2. Families Mullidae through Stromateidae. Bulletin of the United States National Museum 202(2): 1-438, figs 91-132, pls 75-123

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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37408004

Behaviour:Aggressive cleanerfish mimic

Depth:1-40 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:12 cm

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CAAB distribution map