Oriental Maori Wrasse, Oxycheilinus orientalis (Günther 1862)

Other Names: Oriental Wrassse, Thick-stripe Maori Wrasse

An Oriental Maori Wrasse, Oxycheilinus orientalis, in Fiji, October 2010. Source: Mark Rosenstein / iNaturalist. License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

A slender reddish maori wrasse with a broad stripe bordered by narrow pale stripes from the snout to the tail base, pale scale edges forming indistinct zigzag-like vertical bars across the body, white pelvic and anal fins with bright red markings, a dark blotch on the base of the dorsal-fin membrane between the first and second spines, and a darkish marking around the beginning of the lateral-line in adults. Juveniles have two ocellated green spots within a dark stripe on the rear of the body (the last spot on the tail base).

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Oxycheilinus orientalis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Jul 2020,

Oriental Maori Wrasse, Oxycheilinus orientalis (Günther 1862)

More Info


NE of the Monte Bello Islands and offshore reefs of northwestern Western Australia, reefs in the Timor Sea, and the far northern Great Barrier Reef to the Capricorn Group, Queensland - and possibly further south to the Solitary Islands, New South Wales. Elsewhere, the species is widespread in the tropical east-Indo-west Pacific. 

Inhabits deeper sandy and rubble areas on coastal and outer reefs - also in seagrass and algal beds. Females swim in small groups, while juveniles often shelter in crinoids or among soft corals at moderate depths.


Dorsal fin IX,10; Anal fin III,8; Principal caudal-fin rays 13, the median 11 branched; Pectoral fin 12, uppermost 2 unbranched; Pelvic fin I,5; Lateral-line interrupted, pored scales 12-14 + 6-8 (+ 2 on caudal-fin base); Scales above lateral line to origin of dorsal fin 1.5; Scales below lateral line to origin of anal fin 5; Circumpeduncular scales 12; Median predorsal scales 5, preceded by a pair of slightly smaller scales; Gill rakers 4-5 + 6-8; total gill rakers 10-13 (usually 11 or 12); Branchiostegal rays 5; Vertebrae 23. 


Large adults are reddish with a black blotch on the basal half of the dorsal-fin membrane between the first and second spines, and a black blotch around the anterior portion of the lateral-line anterior series, 5 indistinct pale narrow white-flecked bars, 2 indistinct pale stripes along body, irregular bright red vertical lines on scale edges and red dots  and anterior and lower part of body; whitish to pale blue-green lines on side of lower jaw, widest near front of chin; small dark-edged white to pale blue-green spots on side of snout and head below eye; iris yellowish-orange with a blue ring; anterior lateral line scales often with a blackish smudge; dorsal and anal fins pale reddish-orange with oblique red lines and dark-edged white to blue lines or rows of dashes or small spots, membrane of first dorsal fin sometimes blackish, rarely with a broad dusky border; caudal fin red with small white spots, often with an irregular blotchy white bar near base; pectoral fin-rays pale yellowish, fin membranes transparent; pelvic fins translucent whitish, with red blotches and white flecks.

Small adults pale reddish with pink flecks above, white flecks below, a yellowish-orange stripe from chin to eye and mid-side to base of caudal fin, with a broad whitish band above and below; scale edges along mid-side with vertical red lines; two small bright red mid-lateral spots, a small bright red spot below middle of soft portion of dorsal fin, and a second caudal-fin base.


Feeds mostly on fishes, shrimps and other crustaceans.


Maori wrasses are protogynous hermaphrodites - changing sex from female to male during their life cycle.


IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Least Concern


Allen et al. (2006) excluded Oxycheilinus orientalis from the Australian fauna as the record, based on Kuiter (1993), was of a different species.

Species Citation

Cheilinus orientalis Günther, 1862, Cat. Fishes Brit. Mus. 4: 132. (a new name for Cheilinus coccineus, non Rüppell, Bleeker 1862). Type locality: Batjan, Indonesia.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Oriental Maori Wrasse, Oxycheilinus orientalis (Günther 1862)


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. & Russell, B.C. 1986. Part VII Fishes. pp. 79-103 in Berry, P.F. (ed.) Faunal Surveys of the Rowley Shoals, Scott Reef and Seringapatam Reef, northwestern Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 25: 1-106 (as Cheilinus rhodochrous)

Bleeker, P. 1862. Atlas Ichthyologique des Indes Orientales Néerlandaises, publié sous les auspices du Gouvernement colonial néerlandais. Tome 1. Scaroïdes et Labroïdes. Amsterdam : Frédéric Müller 168 pp. pls 1-48. (described as Cheilinus coccineus non Rüppell)

Fukui, Y., Nozomu Muto, N. & Motomura, H. 2017. A new species of labrid fish Oxycheilinus samurai from the western Pacific Ocean. Ichthyological Research 64(2): 212-220. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10228-016-0561-4

Günther, A. 1862. Catalogue of the Fishes in the British Museum. Catalogue of the Acanthopterygii Pharyngognathi and Anacanthini in the collection of the British Museum. London : British Museum Vol. 4 534 pp. See ref at BHL

Kuiter, R.H. 2010. Labridae fishes: wrasses. Seaford, Victoria, Australia : Aquatic Photographics 398 pp. (as Cheilinus orientalis)

Liu, M. & To, A. 2010. Oxycheilinus orientalis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T187423A8531626. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-4.RLTS.T187423A8531626.en. Downloaded on 03 June 2020.

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. & Khalaf, M.A. 2003. Redescription of the labrid fish Oxycheilinus orientalis (Günther), a senior synonym of O. rhodochrous (Günther), and the first record from the Red Sea. Zoological Studies 42(1): 135-139. See ref online open access

Russell, B.C., Larson, H.K., Hutchins, J.B. & Allen, G.R. 2005. Reef fishes of the Sahul Shelf. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory Supplement 1 2005: 83-105 (as Cheilinus orientalis)

Westneat, M.W. 1993. Phylogenetic relationships of the tribe Cheilinini (Labridae: Perciformes). Bulletin of Marine Science 52(1): 351-394

Westneat, M.W. 2001. Labridae. pp. 3381-3467 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. 6 pp. 3381-4218.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37384030


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:10-95 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:18 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map