Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    pyroferus
    Genus
    Acanthurus
    Family
    Acanthuridae
    Order
    Perciformes
    Class
    Actinopterygii
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    The Mimic Surgeonfish grows to 25 cm in length.

Introduction

Adult Mimic Surgeonfish are yellowish to dark brown, with a paler head. Juvenile Mimic Surgeonfish show several colour forms that mimic different species of angelfishes (Family Pomacanthidae). Fishes in the genus Acanthurus have a sharp, scalpel-like spine on either side of the caudal peduncle that can be raised and used as a weapon. These spines are highly modified body scales.

Identification

Adult Mimic Surgeonfish are yellowish to dark brown, with a paler head. The opercular margin is dark and the region above the pectoral fin is orange.

Juvenile Mimic Surgeonfish show several colour forms that mimic different species of angelfishes (Family Pomacanthidae). As the Mimic Surgeonfish grows it eventually becomes larger than the angelfish species it is mimicking. It then changes to the adult colouration.

The common name "Surgeonfish" refers to the spine(s) on the caudal peduncle. Fishes in the genus Acanthurus have a sharp, scalpel-like spine on either side of the caudal peduncle that can be raised and used as a weapon. These spines are highly modified body scales.

Distribution

It occurs in tropical marine waters throughout the Western and Central Pacific.

In Australia it is recorded from the offshore reefs of north-western Western Australia and the northern Great Barrier Reef to northern New South Wales. Small juveniles that are carried south by the East Australian Current are occasionally found in marine waters of southern New South Wales.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

Ozcam map of Mimic Surgeonfish specimens in the Australian Museum. http://ozcam.ala.org.au/occurrences/search?q=Acanthurus%20pyroferus&zoom=off#mapView

References

  1. Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 292.
  2. Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.
  3. Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. Pp. 437.
  4. Johnson, G.D. & A.C. Gill in Paxton, J.R. & W.N. Eschmeyer (Eds). 1994. Encyclopedia of Fishes. Sydney: New South Wales University Press; San Diego: Academic Press [1995]. Pp. 240.
  5. Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press. Pp. 557.