Southern Pygmy Leatherjacket, Brachaluteres jacksonianus (Quoy & Gaimard 1824)

Other Names: Pigmy Leatherjacket, Pygmy Leatherjacket

A Southern Pygmy Leatherjacket, Brachaluteres jacksonianus, in Port Stephens, New South Wales, November 2013. Source: Ian Shaw / License: CC BY Attribution-NonCommercial


A small almost circular leatherjacket with a highly variable colour pattern, ranging from pale yellowish-brown to dark green, with numerous darker and lighter lines, spots and ocelli, providing excellent camouflage. Some individuals have blue spots, lines and dashes and a brilliant blue tail.

Video of Southern Pygmy Leatherjacket spawning behaviour (see Kawase 2005)

A pair of Southern Pygmy Leatherjackets at Bawley Point, New South Wales - depth 6 m.

A pair of Southern Pygmy Leatherjackets at North Head, Sydney Harbour, New South Wales.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Brachaluteres jacksonianus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 07 Jul 2020,

Southern Pygmy Leatherjacket, Brachaluteres jacksonianus (Quoy & Gaimard 1824)

More Info


Known from the southern half of Australia, from Stradbroke Island, Queensland, to Cervantes, Western Australia, and around Tasmania. Inhabits bays, estuaries and sheltered coastal reefs, usually around piers and jetties, or amongst seagrass and macroalgae.


Dorsal fin I + 24-28; Anal fin 22-27; Caudal fin 12; Pectoral fin 10-12; Vertebrae 20.

Distinctive small leatherjacket with an almost circular body; large expandable ventral flap (dewlap); abdomen greatly inflatable; skin covered in velvety spinules; first dorsal fin a single smooth spine that cannot be locked in an erect position; anal fin and second dorsal fin opposite, both with unbranched rays.


Extremely variable - usually green, brown or orange, but may also be yellow, pink, blue, purple, black, grey, or white; head and body usually with black sometimes ocellated spots, spots increase in number and become smaller as the fish grows; some individuals may lack spots , or may have short dashes forming lines on body; dark stripes may also be present on the sides and head; occasionally small white blotches form lines along the sides. Mature individuals have blue lines and spots usually following ventral profile of the head and body, a dark circular blotch is usually present on side just behind pectoral fin. Fins are greenish, although some mature individuals have a brilliant blue spots on the caudal fin.




Kawase (2005) studied the spawning behaviour of the Southern Pygmy Leatherjacket. He observed pre-spawning females repeatedly thrusting their snouts into the substrate where they would spawn, while the males exhibited courtship display and nuzzled the female’s face. The females and males then touched their abdomens in pairs and released gametes. Video of Southern Pygmy Leatherjacket spawning behaviour (see Kawase 2005).

Males reach sexual maturity at < 4 cm TL and females at < 3 cm TL. Fertilized eggs measure 0.74 mm in diameter and each clutch contains 50–191 eggs. Females may attach their eggs of algae found on the surface of seagrass leaves and other substrata. 


Southern Pygmy Leatherjackets lack a small second dorsal-fin spine and, as a result, are unable to lock the first dorsal-fin spine in an upright position. They are poor swimmers, are very well-camouflaged and usually occur on sheltered reefs, amongst seagrasses or around jetties and piers. They are also able to greatly inflate their abdomens when threatened, thus increasing their body size.

Similar Species

Differs from other species in the genus in lacking a small second dorsal-fin spine. Southern Pygmy Leatherjackets also lack the fine dark lines of Brachaluteres taylori - dark lines, if present in B. jacksonianus, are much wider and more stripe-like.

Species Citation

Balistes jacksonianus Quoy & Gaimard, 1824, Voyage autour du Monde 1: 209.Type locality: Sydney, NSW.


Dianne J. Bray

Southern Pygmy Leatherjacket, Brachaluteres jacksonianus (Quoy & Gaimard 1824)


Hutchins, J.B. 1977. Descriptions of three new genera and eight new species of monacanthid fishes from Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 5(1): 3-58 figs 1-13

Hutchins, J.B. 1994. Family Monacanthidae. pp. 866-891 figs 767-787 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.

Hutchins, J.B. 1999. Leatherjackets, in Andrew, N. Under Southern Seas. The Ecology of Australia's Rocky Reefs. University of NSW Press Ltd, Sydney. 238 pp.

Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Biodiversity of shallow reef fish assemblages in Western Australia using a rapid censusing technique. Records of the Western Australian Museum 20: 247-270

Hutchins, J.B. 2008. Family Monacanthidae. pp. 822-841 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1985. Revision of the monacanthid fish genus Brachaluteres. Records of the Western Australian Museum 12(1): 57-78. PDF

Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. 180 pp.

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)

Kawase, H. 2005. Spawning behavior of the pygmy leatherjacket Brachaluteres jacksonianus (Monacanthidae) in southeastern Australia. Ichthyological Research 52(2): 194-197.

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

Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. 437 pp.

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs.

Marshall, T.C. 1953. Ichthyological notes. No. 2. Department of Harbours and Marine. Queensland 2: 48-63 pls 1-3

Matsuura, K. 2014. Taxonomy and systematics of tetraodontiform fishes: a review focusing primarily on progress in the period 1980 to 2014. Review for IPFC9 Special Issue. Ichthyological Research 62(1): 72-113. Open access DOI:10.1007/s10228-014-0444-5

Matsuura, K. & Motomura, H. 2016. Brachaluteres jacksonianus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T69922114A70010075. Downloaded on 22 September 2016.

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.

Quoy, J.R.C. & Gaimard, J.P. 1824. Chapter 8. Poissons. 183-328 pls 43-65 in Freycinet, L.C.D. de (ed.). Voyage autour du Monde, entrepris par ordre du Roi, exécuté sur les corvettes de S.M. Uranie et la Physicienne, pendant les années 1817, 1818, 1819 et 1820. Paris : Pillet Aîné Vol. 1 712 pp. 96 pls.

Swainston, R. 2011. Swainston's Fishes of Australia: The complete illustrated guide. Camberwell, Victoria : Penguin Australia 836 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37465025

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-40 m

Habitat:Reefs, seagrass beds

Max Size:10 cm TL


Species Maps

CAAB distribution map