Acanthurus nigrofuscus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Acanthuridae

Scientific Name: Acanthurus nigrofuscus (Forsskål, 1775)
Common Name(s):
English Brown Surgeonfish, Blackspot Surgeonfish, Dusky Surgeonfish, Lavender Tang, Spot-cheeked Surgeonfish
French Chirurgien Brun
Acanthurus fuliginosus Lesson, 1831
Acanthurus lineolatus Valenciennes, 1835
Acanthurus matoides Valenciennes, 1835
Acanthurus rubropunctatus Rüppell, 1829
Chaetodon nigrofuscus Forsskål, 1775
Ctenodon rubropunctatus (Rüppell, 1829)
Hepatus fuliginosus (Lesson, 1831)
Hepatus lineolatus (Valenciennes, 1835)
Hepatus lucillae Fowler, 1938
Teuthis lucillae (Fowler, 1938)

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2010-05-04
Assessor(s): Choat, J.H., McIlwain, J., Abesamis, R., Clements, K.D., Myers, R., Nanola, C., Rocha, L.A., Russell, B. & Stockwell, B.
Reviewer(s): Davidson, L., Edgar, G. & Kulbicki, M.
Acanthurus nigrofuscus is widespread in the Indo-Pacific Region and is one of the most abundant surgeonfishes on coral reefs (Randall 2002). It is common and dominant on reefs in most of its range. It is caught incidentally for food and is a major component of the aquarium trade in parts of its range (e.g., West Hawaii). There was no clear trend in mean biomass observed in marine protected areas and in fished areas in the Philippines (Stockwell et al. 2009) and no clear trend in the declines in overall density in Fish Replenishment Areas in West Hawaii (Walsh et al. 2010). Harvest is not considered a major threat globally and this species occurs in several marine reserves in parts of its distribution. It is therefore listed as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Acanthurus nigrofuscus is widespread in the Indo-Pacific Region from the Red Sea and coast of East Africa to the Pitcairn Islands and Hawaiian Islands, northwards to southern Japan and southwards to New South Wales, Australia. It was recorded from Western Australia to Rottnest Island (Allen and Swainston 1988).
Countries occurrence:
American Samoa; Australia; British Indian Ocean Territory; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; Christmas Island; Cocos (Keeling) Islands; Comoros; Cook Islands; Disputed Territory (Paracel Is., Spratly Is.); Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Fiji; French Polynesia; French Southern Territories (Mozambique Channel Is.); Guam; Hong Kong; India (Andaman Is., Nicobar Is.); Indonesia; Israel; Japan; Jordan; Kenya; Kiribati (Gilbert Is., Kiribati Line Is., Phoenix Is.); Macao; Madagascar; Malaysia; Maldives; Marshall Islands; Mauritius (Mauritius (main island), Rodrigues); Mayotte; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Mozambique; Myanmar; Nauru; New Caledonia; Niue; Norfolk Island; Northern Mariana Islands; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Pitcairn; Réunion; Samoa; Saudi Arabia; Seychelles; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Somalia; South Africa; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Taiwan, Province of China; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Timor-Leste; Tokelau; Tonga; Tuvalu; United States Minor Outlying Islands (Howland-Baker Is., Johnston I., Midway Is., US Line Is., Wake Is.); Vanuatu; Viet Nam; Wallis and Futuna; Yemen
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – western; Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – southwest; Pacific – western central
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):25
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Acanthurus nigrofuscus is one of the most abundant surgeonfishes on coral reefs (Randall 2002). In Fagatale Bay, American Samoa, it is a dominant species on the reef slope (Green et al. 1999). It was recorded as common in terms of relative abundance in the northern Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea (Allen 2009). It was recorded as occasional in Calamianes Islands, Philippines, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea and in Raja Ampat, Indonesia (Werner and Allen 2000; Allen 2003, 2003b). In South Kona, Big Island, Hawaii, A. nigrofuscus was one of the most abundant species recorded (Friedlander et al. 2006). It is the most abundant acanthurid in Guam. There was no evidence of an increase in abundance inside protected areas 10 years of protection (J. McIlwain unpub. data).

In West Hawaii, it is one of the top 10 most collected aquarium fish. There was a significant decrease in overall density across the nine Fish Replenishment Areas (FRAs). As with density there was a significant decrease in the effectiveness of the FRAs for this species. Acanthurus nigrofuscus is not heavily exploited, averaging Zebrasoma flavescens and Ctenochaetus strigosus (Walsh et al. 2010).

In Nha Trang Bay MPA, Viet Nam, it is one of the most common species recorded and was encountered in almost all of the study sites (Nguyen and Phan 2006). In Kenya, landings during 1978-2001 for families that are less important in commercial catches (e.g., scarinae and Acanthuridae) showed rising catches (1978-1984) followed by a general decline during the 1990s, but the landings for the scarinae showed a rising trend in recent years (Kaunda-Arara et al. 2003).

In the Nabq Managed Resource Protected Area, South Sinai, Egyptian Red Sea, mean abundances of this species showed significant differences at various depths and between no-take zones (NTZ) and take zones (TZ). At 1 m depth of the NTZ, mean abundance was recorded at 50.67 while in the TZ it was 32.80. At 3 m depth of the NTZ, mean abundance was recorded at 38.67 while in the TZ it was 109.00. At 10 m depth of the NTZ, mean abundance was recorded at 32.08 and 58.25 in the TZ (Ashworth and Ormond 2005).

In the central Philippines, density and biomass of herbivorous fish in reserves had positive relationships with duration of reserve protection. Acanthuridae and Labridae (parrotfishes) were the major families that increased in biomass inside reserves with duration of reserve protection. Herbivore biomass inside reserves compared to fished sites was on average 1.4, 4.8 and 8.1 times higher at 0.5, to 4.5 to 7 and 8 to 11 years of protection, respectively.

For A. nigrofuscus, fished site mean biomass was recorded at 0.02 (kg per 500 m2) while mean biomass recorded in 6 reserves were 0.01 (0.5 to 4 years of protection), 0.21, 2.14, 0.06 (5 to 7 years of protection), 0.38 and 0.13 (8 to 11 years of protection) (kg per 500 m2), respectively (Stockwell et al. 2009). There was no clear trend in mean biomass between protected areas and fished areas in the central Visayas (B. Stockwell pers. comm. 2010).
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Acanthurus nigrofuscus is one of the smallest surgeonfishes, but aggressive. It is generally abundant on shallow coral reefs or rocky bottoms (Randall 2001a) and below the surge zone (Randall 2001b). It feeds on algal turf (Choat et al. 2004). It feeds mainly on red algae. It sneaks up on A. lineatus territories (J.H. Choat pers. comm. 2010). It is classified as a grazer (Green and Bellwood 2009) and a herbivore browser (Walsh et al. 2010). Maximum age recorded was 16 years (Choat and Robertson 2002a).  There were locality specific variations in maximum sizes (J.H. Choat pers. comm. 2010).


The sexes are separate among the acanthurids (Reeson 1983). Acanthurids do not display obvious sexual dimorphism, males assume courtship colours (J.H. Choat pers. comm. 2010). Spawning aggregations were observed in the Red Sea (Myberg et al. 1988), Aldabra Atoll, Palau and Lizard Island, Australia (Robertson 1983). Adults made daily afternoon migrations from shallow feeding areas to specific spawning sites located at the most seaward extension of the reef (Robertson 1983, Myrberg et al.1988) or channels between lagoon and open ocean (Aldabra) (Robertson 1983). This species was observed to form spawning aggregations of several thousand individuals. Dense aggregations formed expanding domes that would repeatedly rise off the bottom to about 3 m height, then rapidly return to the substrate. Rapid succession of spawning rushes occurred by subgroups of 4-15 individuals, led by an individual female followed by multiple males, at the top of the dome, followed by a period of no spawning before spawning activity commences again (Domeier and Colin 1997). Robertson (1983) observed group spawning in pulses of subgroup activity. After large pulses of spawning activity, streams of fish migrated away from the spawning site (Myrberg et al. 1988).

In Aldabra Atoll it was observed to spawn before the new/full moon during November-December. In the Great Barrier Reef it spawns from February-April. In Palau it spawns from January to April, 5-7 days before the new/full moon (Robertson 1983).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Acanthurus nigrofuscus is incidentally captured for food. It is taken mostly in traps or by driving schools to a barrier net. It is also a minor component of the aquarium trade (Global Marine Aquarium Database accessed 19 March 2010). Online prices range from $29.95-$79.95 (L. Rocha pers. comm. 2010).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There was no clear trend in mean biomass observed between fished and marine reserves in the central Philippines (Stockwell et al. 2009). There are no major threats known for this species.

Surgeonfishes show varying degrees of habitat preference and utilization of coral reef habitats, with some species spending the majority of their life stages on coral reef while others primarily utilize seagrass beds, mangroves, algal beds, and /or rocky reefs. The majority of surgeonfishes are exclusively found on coral reef habitat, and of these, approximately 80% are experiencing a greater than 30% loss of coral reef area and degradation of coral reef habitat quality across their distributions. However, more research is needed to understand the long-term effects of coral reef habitat loss and degradation on these species' populations. Widespread coral reef loss and declining habitat conditions are particularly worrying for species that recruit into areas with live coral cover, especially as studies have shown that protection of pristine habitats facilitate the persistence of adult populations in species that have spatially separated adult and juvenile habitats (Comeros-Raynal et al. 2012).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no species-specific conservation measures in place for this species. However, its distribution overlaps several marine protected areas within its range. In Queensland, Australia, there is a recreational catch limit of 5 per species and a minimum size limit of 25 cm (Department of Primary Industries accessed 8 April 2010).

Classifications [top]

9. Marine Neritic -> 9.2. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Rock and Rocky Reefs
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.3. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Loose Rock/pebble/gravel
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.1. Outer Reef Channel
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.2. Back Slope
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.3. Foreslope (Outer Reef Slope)
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.4. Lagoon
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.5. Inter-Reef Soft Substrate
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.8. Marine Neritic - Coral Reef -> 9.8.6. Inter-Reef Rubble Substrate

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over part of range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.2. Harvest level trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓ 

♦  Pets/display animals, horticulture
 International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Allen, G.R. 2003. Appendix 5. List of the reef fishes of Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea. In: G.R. Allen, J. P. Kinch, S.A. McKenna, and P. Seeto (eds), A Rapid Marine Biodiversity Assessment of Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea–Survey II (2000), pp. 172. Conservation International, Washington, DC, USA.

Allen, G.R. 2003b. Appendix 1. List of the Reef Fishes of the Raja Ampat Islands. In: R. Donnelly, D. Neville and P.J. Mous (eds), Report on a rapid ecological assessment of the Raja Ampat Islands, Papua, Eastern Indonesia, held October 30 – November 22, 2002. The Nature Conservancy - Southeast Asia Center for Marine Protected Areas, Sanur, Bali.

Allen, G.R. 2009. Coral Reef Fish Diversity. In: R. Hamilton, A. Green and J. Almany (eds), Rapid Ecological Assessment: Northern Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea. Technical Report of survey conducted August 13 to September 7, 2006, The Nature Conservancy.

Ashworth, J.S. and Ormond, R.F.G. 2005. Effects of fishing pressure and trophic group on abundance and spillover across boundaries of a no-take zone. Biological Conservation 121: 333-344.

Choat, J.H. and Robertson, D.R. 2002a. Age-based studies on coral reef fishes. In: P.F. Sale (ed.), Coral reef fishes: dynamics and diversity in a complex ecosystem, pp. 57-80. Academic Press, Burlington, San Diego and London.

Choat, J.H., Robbins, W.D. and Clements, K.D. 2004. The trophic status of herbivorous fishes on coral reefs. Marine Biology 145: 445-454.

Comeros-Raynal, M.T., Choat, J.H., Polidoro, B.A., Clements, K.D., Abesamis, R., Craig, M.T., Lazuardi, M.E., McIlwain, J., Muljadi, A., Myers, R.F., Nañola Jr., C.L., Pardede, S., Rocha, L.A., Russell, B., Sanciangco, J.C., Stockwell, B., Harwell, H. and Carpenter, K.E. 2012. The likelihood of extinction of iconic and dominant components of coral reefs: the parrotfishes and surgeonfishes. PLoS ONE

Department of Primary Industries - Queensland Government. 2010. Surgeonfishes. Available at: (Accessed: 8 April).

Domeier, M.L. and Colin, P.L. 1997. Tropical reef fish spawning and aggregations: defined and reviewed. Bulletin of Marine Science 60(3): 698-726.

Friedlander, A., Aeby, G., Brainard, R., Brown, E., Chaston, K., Clark, A., McGowan, P., Montgomery, T., Walsh, W., Williams, I. and Wiltse, W. 2006. The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the Main Hawaiian Islands. Available at: (Accessed: March 25).

Global Marine Aquarium Database. 2010. Species Trade Details. Available at: (Accessed: March 19).

Green, A.L. and Bellwood, D.R. 2009. Monitoring functional groups of herbivorous reef fishes as indicators of coral reef resilience – A practical guide for coral reef managers in the Asia Pacific region. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

Green, A.L., Birkeland, C.E. and Randall, R.H. 1999. Twenty Years of Disturbance and Change in Fagatale Bay National Marine Sanctuary, American Samoa. Pacific Science 53(4): 376-400.

IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.2). Available at: (Accessed: 17 October 2012).

Kaunda-Arara, B., Rose, G.A., Muchiri, M.S. and Kaka, R. 2003. Long-term Trends in Coral Reef Fish Yields and Exploitation Rates of Commercial Species from Coastal Kenya. Western Indian Ocean Journal of Marine Science 2(2): 105-116.

Myrberg, A.A., Montgomery, W.L. and Fishelson, L. 1988. The reproductive behavior of Acanthurus nigrofuscus (Forskal) and other surgeonfishes (Fam. Acanthuridae) off Eilat, Israel (Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea). Ethology 79: 31-61.

Nguyen, L.V. and Phan, H.K. 2008. Distribution and factors influencing on structure of reef fish communities in Nha Trang Bay Marine Protected Area, South-Central Vietnam. Environmental Biology of Fishes 82: 309-324.

Randall, J.E. 2001a. Surgeonfishes of the world. Mutual Publishing and Bishop Museum Press, Hawai'i, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Randall, J.E. 2001b. Acanthuridae. Surgeonfishes (tangs, unicornfishes). In: K.E. Carpenter and V. Niem (eds), The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. Vol. 6. Bony fishes part 4 (Labridae to Latimeriidae), estuarine crocodiles, pp. 3653-3683. FAO, Rome.

Randall, J.E. 2002. Acanthuridae. Surgeonfishes. In: K.E. Carpenter (ed.), The living marine resources of the Western Central Atlantic. Bony fishes part 2 (Opistognathidae to Molidae), sea turtles and marine mammals, pp. 1801-1805. FAO, Rome.

Reeson, P.H. 1983. The biology, ecology and bionomics of the surgeonfishes, Acanthuridae. In: J.L. Munro (ed.), Caribbean coral reef fishery resources, pp. 178-190.

Robertson, D.R. 1983. On the spawning behavior and spawning cycles of eight surgeonfishes (Acanthuridae) from the Indo-Pacific. Environmental Biology of Fishes 9(3/4): 193-223.

Stockwell, B., Jadloc, C.R.L., Abesamis, R.A., Alcala, A.C. and Russ, G.R. 2009. Trophic and benthic responses to no-take marine reserve protection in the Philippines. Marine Ecology Progress Series 389: 1-15.

Walsh, W., Cotton, S., Carman, B., Livnat, L., Osada, K., Barnett, C., Tissot, B., Stevenson, T., Wiggins, C., Tarnas, D., Bourdon, K. and Peck, S. 2010. Report on the Findings and Recommendations of Effectiveness of the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area. Department of Land and Natural Resources State of Hawaii, State of Hawaii.

Werner, T.B. and Allen, G.R. 2000. A rapid marine biodiversity assessment of the Calamianes Islands, Palawan province, Philippines. RAP Bulletin of Biological Assessment 17. Conservation International, Washington, USA.

Citation: Choat, J.H., McIlwain, J., Abesamis, R., Clements, K.D., Myers, R., Nanola, C., Rocha, L.A., Russell, B. & Stockwell, B. 2012. Acanthurus nigrofuscus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T178019A1523035. . Downloaded on 21 September 2018.
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