Thornback Cowfish, Lactoria fornasini (Bianconi 1846)

Other Names: Spiny-backed Cow-fish, Thorny-back Cowfish, Thorny-back Cow-fish

A Thornback Cowfish, Lactoria fornasini, in Halifax Park, Port Stephens, New South Wales, December 2016. Source: John Turnbull / Flickr. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Lactoria fornasini in Fishes of Australia, accessed 09 Jul 2020,

Thornback Cowfish, Lactoria fornasini (Bianconi 1846)

More Info


Houtman Abrolhos to N of Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia, and Princess Charlotte Bay, Queensland to southern New South Wales, with one record from the Gippsland Lakes, Victoria; also at Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, Indo-west-central Pacific.
Often in weed beds near reefs and in estuaries.

Species Citation

Ostracion fornasini Bianconi 1846, Nuovi Annali delle Scienze Naturali. Bologna 2 5: 115, pl. 1. Type locality: Mozambique.


Bray, D.J. 2019


Atlas of Living Australia

Thornback Cowfish, Lactoria fornasini (Bianconi 1846)


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

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. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp. 

Bianconi, G.G. 1846. Lettera sul Ostracion fornasini, n. sp. de pesce del Mosambico. Nuovi Annali delle Scienze Naturali. Bologna 2 5: 113-115 figs

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 

Gloerfelt-Tarp, T. & Kailola, P.J. 1984. Trawled Fishes of Southern Indonesia and Northwest Australia. Jakarta : Dir. Gen. Fish. (Indonesia), German Tech. Coop., Aust. Dev. Ass. Bur. 406 pp. 

Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp. 

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)

Klassen, G.J. 1995. Phylogeny and biogeography of the Ostraciinae (Tetraodontiformes: Ostraciidae). Bulletin of Marine Science 57(2): 393-441 

Kuiter, R.H. 1992. Tropical Reef-Fishes of the Western Pacific, Indonesia and Adjacent Waters. Jakarta : PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama 314 pp. pls. 

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

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. 

Lowe, G.R. & Russell, B.C. 1990. Additions and revisions to the checklist of fishes of the Capricorn-Bunker Group, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Special Publication Series 19: 1-27 

Marshall, T.C. 1964. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coastal Waters of Queensland. Sydney : Angus & Robertson 566 pp. 136 pls. 

Masuda, H., Amaoka, K., Araga, C., Uyeno, T. & Yoshino, T. (eds) 1984. The Fishes of the Japanese Archipelago. Tokyo : Tokai University Press Vol. 1–2 437 pp. 247 figs 370 pls. 

Matsuura, K. 2014. Taxonomy and systematics of tetraodontiform fishes: a review focusing primarily on progress in the period from 1980 to 2014. Ichthyological Research 62(1): 72-113, open access

Moyer, J.T. & Sano, M. 1987. Feeding habits of two sympatric ostraciid fishes at Miyake-jima, Japanese Journal of Ichthyology 34(1): 108-112., open access

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. 

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. 

Santini, F., Sorenson, L., Marcroft, T., Dornburg, A. & Alfaro, M.E. 2013. A multilocus molecular phylogeny of boxfishes (Aracanidae, Ostraciidae; Tetraodontiformes). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 66: 153-160 (as Tetrosomus fornasini)

Whitley, G.P. 1933. Studies in Ichthyology No. 7. Records of the Australian Museum 19(1): 60-112 figs 1-4 pls 11-15 DOI: 10.3853/j.0067-1975.19.1933.691, open access  (described as Paracanthostracion lindsayi levior)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37466018

Depth:3-73 m

Habitat:Reef associated, weed beds

Max Size:23 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map