Velvet Leatherjacket, Meuschenia scaber (Forster 1801)

Other Names: Cosmopolitan Leatherjacket, Cream Fish, Kokiri, Scaber Leatherjacket

A Velvet Leatherjacket, Meuschenia scaber, at the Poor Knights Marine Reserve, New Zealand. Source: Andrew J. Green / Reef Life Survey. License: CC BY Attribution


A pale brown, greyish, or whitish leatherjacket, usually with large dark blotches, and 2-3 dark diagonal bars radiating forward from the eye to the underside of the head. Males have a narrow blackish submarginal bar on the tail.

The common name Velvet Leatherjacket refers to the scales which have many tiny spinules, giving this species a velvety appearance.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Meuschenia scaber in Fishes of Australia, accessed 22 Jun 2024,

Velvet Leatherjacket, Meuschenia scaber (Forster 1801)

More Info


Southern half of Australia, from Sydney, New South Wales, to Cape Naturaliste, Western Australia, and around Tasmania; also at Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the temperate, south-west Pacific (New Zealand including Chatham Islands and Kermadec Islands).

Although Velvet Leatherjackets usually inhabit deeper macroalgal-covered reefs, they occasionally enter bays and estuaries, especially as juveniles. Individuals are also seen on shallow coastal reefs; depth range 2-200 m.


Dorsal fin spines/rays II,  28-32; Anal fin rays 31-36; Caudal fin rays 12; Pectoral fin rays 12-14; Vertebrae 20.
Body oblong, moderately deep, with a prominent first dorsal-fin spine above the rear of the eye, a small to moderate ventral flap and no spines or bristles on the tail base.


To 32 cm


Pale brown, greyish, or white, usually with large dark blotches, and 2-3 dark bars from eye to underside of head; tail of male with a thin blackish cross-bar near hind margin.


Feeds on benthic invertebrates, and has also been observed feeding on zooplankton above the bottom.


Often taken as by-catch in trawls, especially in the inshore bottom trawl fishery in New Zealand.


Velvet Leatherjackets may be aggressive, and are known to bite divers' fingers.


The specific name is from the Latin scaber (= rough), presumably in reference to the rough texture of the skin of this species.

Species Citation

Balistes scaber Forster in Bloch & Schneider 1801, Systema Ichthyologiae : 477. Type locality: Pacific Ocean (= Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand).


Bray, D.J. 2019


Atlas of Living Australia

Velvet Leatherjacket, Meuschenia scaber (Forster 1801)


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  • Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37465005

    Depth:2-200 m

    Habitat:Reef associated

    Max Size:32 cm

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