Animal Species:Sabre Squirrelfish, Sargocentron spiniferum (Forsskål, 1775)

The Sabre Squirrelfish is the largest of the squirrelfishes. Its common name refers to the very long preopercular spine. It is found throughout the Indo-Pacific.

Sabre Squirrelfish at Harrier Reef

Sabre Squirrelfish at Harrier Reef
Photographer: Erik Schlögl © Erik Schlögl

Standard Common Name

Sabre Squirrelfish

Alternative Name/s

Giant Squirrelfish, Spiny Squirrelfish


The Sabre Squirrelfish is bright red with white scale margins. It has a deep red spinous dorsal fin, and a vertically elongated crimson blotch behind the eye. The dorsal profile of the head is nearly straight, the lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper jaw when the mouth is closed and there is a very long preopercular spine. It is the largest of the squirrelfishes. Its common name refers to the very long preopercular spine.

Size range

The species grows to 45 cm in length.


It is found throughout the Indo-Pacific. In Australia it is recorded from north-western Western Australia, around the tropical north and south to the southern Great Barrier Reef.

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

Sargocentron spiniferum

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Sabre Squirrelfish specimens in the Australian Museums.

What does this mean?


The species lives in caves and crevices on coral reefs.



What does this mean?


  1. Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 292.
  2. Allen, G.R. & R. Swainston. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 201.
  3. Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. parts 1-3, pages 1-2178.
  4. Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.
  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.

Mark McGrouther , Senior Fellow
Last Updated:

Tags Fishes, Ichthyology, Sabre Squirrelfish, Sargocentron spiniferum, Holocentridae, Giant Squirrelfish, red, 30 cm - 1 m, caves, coral reef, marine, tropical water, Great Barrier Reef, largest,