Animal Species:Rock Cale, Aplodactylus lophodon (Günther, 1859)
The Rock Cale can be recognised by its small head and blunt snout. It occurs in shallow coastal waters of New South Wales and Victoria.
Standard Common Name
Cockatoo Fish, Cocky, Joey, Rock Cocky, Sea Carp
The Rock Cale has a small head with a blunt snout, which give it a "hunchbacked" appearance. It has large pectoral fins with thickened lower rays. Its colouration varies from yellowish-brown in females to bluish-black in males. There is lighter mottling on the body and pale spots on all the fins. Adults have a dark saddle below the first dorsal fin and a row of white blotches on the sides.
The Rock Cale can be separated from other species of Aplodactylus by its larger scales (72-82 in the lateral line versus 83-120) and its lack of vomerine teeth.
Many recent publications list this species as Crinodus lophodon. The research of Dr B.C. Russell (see Further Reading), of the Northern Territory Museum, has shown that this species should be placed in the genus Aplodactylus.
The species grows to 35 cm in length.
The Rock Cale is found from northern New South Wales to northern Victoria.
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.
Distribution by collection data
It is a very common fish in the exposed shores of the central New South Wales coast. It occurs from the surface down to about 10 m depth.
Feeding and Diet
The Rock Cale eats algae.
Juveniles have an obvious 'ear spot', which is visible in the video below.
- Edgar, G.J. 1997. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Reed Books. Pp. 544.
- Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. Pp. 180.
- Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.
- Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. Pp. 437.
- Russell, B.C. 2000. Review of the southern temperate fish family Aplodactylidae (Pisces: Perciformes). Journal of Natural History. 34: 2157-2171.
Mark McGrouther , Senior Fellow