Greenfin Parrotfish, Chlorurus spilurus (Valenciennes 1840)

Other Names: Bullethead Parrotfish, Daisy Parrotfish, Green-finned Parrotfish, Pacific Bullethead Parrotfish, Shabby Parrotfish

A terminal phase Bullethead Parrotfish, Chlorurus spilurus, in the Ningaloo Marine Park, Western Australia, August 2015. Source: John Turnbull / Flickr. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike

Males (terminal phase) are bluish to brownish-green with a pale belly, a pale green caudal peduncle, a yellowish/orange patch on the rear of the body, green pectoral fins with a narrow purple stripe, a purplish snout and often two purplish stripes behind the eye, often an orange to pinkish patch on the cheek, and narrow pinkish lines around the mouth. 
Females (initial phase) are dark brownish-maroon with a pinkish/red snout and chin, and often two rows of white spots along the side.  
Small juveniles are dark brown with four white stripes along the side. Larger juveniles gradually brownish-maroon anteriorly with a white tail and a white caudal peduncles surrounding a large dark spot.
Chlorurus spilurus is the correct name for populations in mainland Australia. Chlorurus sordidus occurs in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, including the Australian territories of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean  (see remarks).

Video of a huge school of Bullethead Parrotfish in Kane'ohe Bay, Hawaii.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Chlorurus spilurus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 29 Jan 2023,

Greenfin Parrotfish, Chlorurus spilurus (Valenciennes 1840)

More Info


Rottnest Island north to offshore reefs of north Western Australia and Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, and the far northern Great Barrier Reef to southern Queensland (and possibly further south), and reefs in the Coral Sea; also at Elizabeth and Middleton reefs, and Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the East-Indo-west-central Pacific.


Population genetic studies have shown that what had previously been called Chlorurus sordidus, is a complex of two or more cryptic species, and that C. spilurus is the correct name for the Bullethead Parrotfish in Australian waters - excluding the territories of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands.


The specific name spilurus is from the Greek spilos (= spot) and oura (= tail), presumably in reference to the large spot on the caudal peduncle in juveniles.

Species Citation

Scarus spilurus Valenciennes, in Cuvier & Valenciennes 1840, Histoire naturelle des poissons 14: 279. Type locality: Caroline Islands, western Pacific.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Greenfin Parrotfish, Chlorurus spilurus (Valenciennes 1840)


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

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

Allen, G.R., Cross, N.J. & Allen, C.J. 2006. Scarinae. pp. 1425-1434 in Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & Allen, G.R. Fishes. In, Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Vol. 35. Volume 35 Australia : ABRS & CSIRO Publishing Parts 1-3, 2178 pp. (as Chlorurus sordidus

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 (as Scarus sordidus

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. (as Scarus sordidus

Bay, L.K., Choat, J.H., van Herwerden, L. & Robertson, D.R. 2004. High genetic diversities and complex genetic structure in an Indo-Pacific tropical reef fish (Chlorurus sordidus): evidence of an unstable evolutionary past? Marine Biology 144: 757-767.

Beck, E. 2013. Comparative phylogeography of four Indo–Pacific scarine labrids: an insight into the evolutionary patterns of reef fish. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

Bellwood, D.R. 1985. The functional morphology, systematics and behavioural ecology of parrotfishes (Family Scaridae), Ph.D. thesis, James Cook University, Townsville. (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Bellwood, D.R. 1985. The functional morphology, systematics and behavioural ecology of parrotfishes (Family Scaridae), Ph.D. thesis, James Cook University, Townsville, 139 pp. PDF  (as Chlorurus sordidus

Bellwood, D.R. 1988. Ontogenetic changes in the diet of early post-settlement Scarus species (Pisces: Scaridae). Journal of Fish Biology 33: 213-219 (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Bellwood, D.R. 1994. A phylogenetic study of the parrotfishes family Scaridae (Pisces: Labroidei), with a revision of genera. Records of the Australian Museum, Supplement 20: 1-86 (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Bellwood, D.R. 1995. Carbonate transport and within-reef patterns of bioerosion and sediment release by parrotfishes (family Scaridae) on the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 117: 127-136 (as Chlorurus sordidus

Bellwood, D.R. 1996. Production and reworking of sediment by parrotfishes (family Scaridae) on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Marine Biology. 125: 795-800 (as Chlorurus sordidus

Bellwood, D.R. 2001. Scaridae. pp. 3468-3492 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.

Bellwood, D.R. & Choat, J.H. 1989. A description of the juvenile phase colour patterns of 24 parrotfish species (Family Scaridae) from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Records of the Australian Museum 41: 1-41 (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Bellwood, D.R. & Choat, J.H. 1990. A functional analysis of grazing in parrotfishes (family Scaridae): the ecological implications, Environmental Biology of Fishes 28: 189-214 (as Chlorurus sordidus

Bellwood, D.R. & Fulton, C.J. 2008. Sediment-mediated suppression of herbivory on coral reefs: decreasing resilience to rising sea levels and climate change? Limnology and Oceanography 53: 2695-2701 (as Chlorurus sordidus

Bonaldo, R.M. 2011. The ecosystem role of parrotfishes on coral reefs, PhD thesis, James Cook University. 

Brandl, S.J. & Bellwood, D.R. 2013. Morphology, sociality, and ecology: can morphology predict pairing behavior in coral reef fishes? Coral Reefs 32: 835-836.  

Caley, M.J. 1995. Reef fish community structure and dynamics: in interaction between local and larger-scale processes? Marine Ecology Progress Series 129: 19-29 (as Chlorurus sordidus)
Chen, L.-S. 2002. Post-settlement diet shift of Chlorurus sordidus and Scarus schlegeli (Pisces: Scaridae), Zoological Studies 41: 47-58. 

Choat, J.H., Axe, L.M. & Lou, D.C. 1996. Growth and longevity in fishes of the family Scaridae. Marine Ecology Progress Series 145: 33-41 (as Chlorurus sordidus

Choat, J.H., Carpenter, K.E., Clements, K.D., Rocha, L.A., Russell, B., Myers, R., Lazuardi, M.E., Muljadi, A., Pardede, S. & Rahardjo, P. 2012. Chlorurus spilurus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T190727A17783061. Downloaded on 14 August 2016.

Choat, J.H., Clements, K.D. & Robbins, W.D. 2002. The tropic status of herbivorous fishes on coral reefs. 1. Dietary analyses, Marine Biology 140: 613-623 (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Choat, J.H., Klanten, O.S., van Herwerden, L., Robertson, D.R. & Clements, K.D. 2012. Patterns and processes in the evolutionary history of parrotfishes (Family Labridae)., Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 107: 529-557. DOI: PDF available - open access

Choat, J.H. & Randall, J.E. 1986. A review of the parrotfishes (Family Scaridae) of the Great Barrier Reef of Australia with description of a new species. Records of the Australian Museum 38: 175-228. (as Scarus sordidus

Choat, J.H., van Herwerden, L., Robbins, W.D., Hobbs, J.P. & Ayling, A.M. 2006. A report on the ecological surveys undertaken at Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs, February 2006. Report by James Cook University to the Department of the Environment and Heritage. 65 pp. (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Crook, A.C. 1997. Behavioural patterns and the significance of colour patterns in reef fishes of the family Scaridae, Ph.D. thesis, James Cook University, Townsville (as Chlorurus sordidus)  

Crook, A.C. 1997. Colour patterns in a coral reef fish: is background complexity important? Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 217: 237-252 (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Crook, A.C. 1997. Determinants of the physiological colour patterns of juvenile parrotfish, Chlorurus sordidus. Animal Behaviour 53: 1251-1261. (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Crook, A.C. 1999. Quantitative evidence for assortative schooling in a coral reef fish, Marine Ecology Progress Series 176: 17-23 (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Crook, A.C. 1999. A quantitative analysis of the relationship between interspecific encounters, schooling behaviour and colouration in juvenile parrotfish (family Scaridae), Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology 33: 1-19 (as Chlorurus sordidus

Dudgeon, C.L., Gust, N. & Blair, D. 2000. No apparent genetic basis to demographic differences in scarid fishes across continental shelf of the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Biology 137: 1059-1066 (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Francis, M. 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 (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Gill, A.C. & Reader, S.E. 1992. Fishes. pp. 90-93, 193-228 in Hutchings, P. (ed.). Reef Biology. A Survey of Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, South Pacific. Canberra : Australian National Parks Vol. 3, Kowari 230 pp. (as Chlorurus sordidus

Grutter, A.S., Rumney, J.G., Sinclair-Taylor, T., Waldie, P. & Franklin, C.E. 2010. Fish mucous cocoons: the 'mosquito nets' of the sea, Biology Letters, doi: 10.1098: rsbl20100916. (as Chlorurus sordidus

Gust, N. 2002. Scarid biomass on the northern Great Barrier Reef: the influence of exposure, depth and substrata, Environmental Biology of Fishes 64: 353-366. (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Hoey, A.S. 2010. The ecosystem role of macroalgal browsing fishes on coral reefs., PhD thesis, James Cook University. (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Hoey, A.S. & Bellwood, D.R. 2008. Cross-shelf variation in the role of parrotfishes on the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Reefs 27: 37-47. (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Hoschke, A., Whisson, G. & Moore, G.I. 2019. Complete list of fishes from Rottnest Island. pp. 150-161 in Whisson, G. & Hoschke, A. (eds) The Rottnest Island fish book. 2nd ed. Perth : Aqua Research and Monitoring Services.

Hutchins, J.B. 1994. A survey of the nearshore reef fish fauna of Western Australia's west and south coasts — The Leeuwin Province. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 46: 1-66 figs 1-6 (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Hutchins, J.B. 1997. Checklist of fishes of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia. pp. 239-253 in Wells, F. (ed.) The Marine Fauna and Flora of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum. (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Hutchins, B. 2004. Fishes of the Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 66: 343–398 (as Chlorurus sordidus

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

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) (as Chlorurus sordidus

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. (as Scarus sordidus

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. (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Randall, J.E. 2010. Shore Fishes of Hawaii: Revised Ed. University of Hawai'I Press, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A, 240 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. (as Scarus sordidus

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. (as Chlorurus sordidus

Russell, B.C. 1983. Annotated checklist of the coral reef fishes in the Capricorn-Bunker group, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Special Publication Series 1: 1-184 figs 1-2 (as Scarus sordidus

Smith, L.L., Fessler, J.L., Alfaro, M.E., Streelman, J.T. & Westneat, M.W. 2008. Phylogenetic relationships and the evolution of regulatory gene sequences in the parrotfishes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 49: 136-152 (as Chlorurus sordidus)

Valenciennes, A. in Cuvier, G.L. & Valenciennes, A. 1840. Histoire Naturelle des Poissons. Paris : Levrault Vol. 14 464 pp. pls 389-420. See ref at BHL

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37386030


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-30 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:37 cm TL

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map