Greenfin Parrotfish (species: Chlorurus spilurus) in Lizard Island Field Guide (Lizard Island Field Guide)
Chlorurus spilurus
Greenfin Parrotfish

©Kendall Clements: Chlorurus spilurus at Hicks Reef near Lizard Island. Photo id by Prof Kendall Clements (University of Auckland).

©Andy Lewis: A terminal phase male Greenfin Parrotfish

©Andy Lewis: A teminal Phase Greenfin Parrotfish with dark colouration
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Order Perciformes
Family Scaridae
Genus Chlorurus
Species Chlorurus spilurus



Distinguishing features

A small to medium sized parrotfish with exposed dental plates that can have considerable colour variation.

Terminal phase: square-cut tail, pale green tail base, yellowish/orange patch on rear body, pectoral fins green with a thin purple stripe, dark purple patch between snout and eye, often two dark lines behind eye, often with thin pink/purple lines outlining mouth. The fish can darken its colour to a brownish-green from time to time.

Initial phase: square-cut tail, dark maroon-brown with pink/red around the lips, and often with a double row of four white spots along the side. These fish can change colour, with a lighter colour pattern frequently seen in the larger IP fish.

Juvenile: square-cut tail, dark brown with several horizontal white stripes. Larger juveniles become maroon/brown anteriorly with a white tail and tail base with a large dark spot.


  • Up to 40 cm (Standard length)

Depth range

  • Depth range data is not yet available.


Similar taxa


©Atlas of Living Australia: Australian distribution

Distribution and habitat preferences

Found in nearly all habitats, but most common on shallow flats and lagoonal and backreef patch reefs.

Local abundance

  • Lizard Island: Chlorurus spilurus is by far the most abundant parrotfish on the outer reefs near Lizard Island and it is the second-most abundant after Scarus rivulatus within the Lizard Island Group. Information provided by Howard Choat, 2016.


The Greenfin Parrotfish, along with others from the genus Chlorurus, have exposed teeth in powerful jaws, and they use an excavating mode of feeding. They take benthic turf algae from dead coral surfaces, and due to their high numbers are considered important agents of bioerosion. Spawning takes place in the summer months at reef passes and points with good water flow. This species reaches 8-9 years of age, with both males and females present in the initial phase, but only males in the green terminal phase. There are strong differences in the demography of this species between Lizard Island and the outer barrier reef. Population density at Lizard is 50% lower than at the outer barrier, however fish at Lizard grow faster, live longer, and suffer less mortality.

Web resources


References that assist with identification

  • Allen and M.V. Erdmann, G.R. (2012). Reef fishes of the East Indies. Volumes I-III in: Reef fishes of the East Indies. Tropical Reef Research, Perth, Australia. LIRS catalog number 90162.
  • Bellwood, D.R. and J.H. Choat (1989). A description of the juvenile phase colour patterns of 24 parrotfish species (Family Scaridae) from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, Records of the Australian Museum, 41: 1-41. LIRS catalog number 264.

Other references

  • Arnal, C. (2000). Ecologie comportementale de la symbiose poisson nettoyeur/ poisson client: motivations et honnĂȘtetĂ©, Ph.D. thesis, University of Perpignan, France. LIRS catalog number 637.
  • View all references