Chaetodon rainfordi


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Chaetodon rainfordi
Species Authority: McCulloch, 1923
Common Name(s):
English Rainford's Butterflyfish, Rainford's Butterflyfish, Rainford's Coralfish

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-10-09
Assessor(s): Myers, R. & Pratchett, M.
Reviewer(s): Elfes, C., Polidoro, B., Livingstone, S. & Carpenter, K.E.
Chaetodon rainfordi is largely endemic to the Great Barrier Reef and is mainly found on nearshore habitats, where there is considerable ongoing coral loss since the 1950s, mostly due to sedimentation (McCulloch et al. 2003). This species has gone locally extinct following extensive coral loss in the central Great Barrier Reef (Pratchett et al. 2006). It is possible that there have been declines across more than 30% of this species' distribution, but this would need to be confirmed against data from the Australian Institute of Marine Science Long-term Monitoring Program. There are no obvious major threats beyond coral loss. It is listed as Near Threatened based on almost reaching the thresholds  for criterion A2 (c) and (a) with localized declines of up to 100% recorded within three generation lengths (18 years).

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species has a restricted range, and is distributed from Papua New Guinea along the Great Barrier Reef and Lord Howe Island (Pyle 2001). Its geographic range size is estimated to be 1.2 million km2, from values estimated by Jones et al. (2002) based on projections of distribution maps from Allen et al. (1998).
Australia (Lord Howe Is.); Papua New Guinea
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – southwest; Pacific – western central
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


This species is generally common (e.g., mean of 0.5 individuals per 200 m2 in northern Great Barrier Reef; Pratchett and Berumen 2008). It has declined significantly on the Great Barrier Reef (Berumen and Pratchett 2006, Pratchett et al. 2006), where there has been coral loss and bleaching. However, bleaching has been patchy across the Great Barrier Reef, and it is unclear to what extent this affects the global population. This species is found on nearshore habitats, where there is considerable ongoing coral loss since the 1950s (MacCulloch et al. 2003). It is possible that there have been declines across more than 30% of this species' distribution, but this would need to be confirmed against data from the Australian Institute of Marine Science Long-term Monitoring Program.


Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Inhabits coastal and offshore reefs at depths of 5-20 m. It occurs as solitary individuals or in pairs (Pyle 2001). This species is an obligate corallivore (Pratchett 2005), which is consistent with marked declines in abundance following extensive coral loss (Pratchett et al. 2006). The species (like C. aureofasciatus) recruits in high numbers, which may enhance recovery potential.
Systems: Marine

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is rarely exported through the aquarium trade (Pyle 2001).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Relies on live coral for food and recruitment, and has declined significantly following climate-induced coral depletion on the Great Barrier Reef (Pratchett et al. 2006). Aside from coral loss and habitat degradation, there are no other major threats to this species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no species-specific conservation measures in place. This species is present within marine protected areas (>50% of its distribution is contained within Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park). Monitoring of this species is needed in conjunction with coral monitoring, as well as determination of the degree of co-dependence between this species and corals.

Bibliography [top]

Allen, G.R., Steene, R. and Allen, M. 1998. A guide to angelfishes and butterflyfishes. Odyssey Publishing/Tropical Reef Research.

Berumen, M.L. and Pratchett, M.S. 2006. Recovery without resilience: persistent distrubance and long-term shifts in the structure of fiosh and coral communities at Tiahura Reef, Moorea. Coral Reefs 25: 647-653.

IUCN. 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2010.4). Available at: (Accessed: 27 October 2010).

Jones, G.P., Caley, M.J. and Munday, P.L. 2002. Rarity in coral reef fish communities. In: P.F. Sale (ed.), Coral reef fishes; Dynamics and diversity in a complex ecosystem, pp. 81-101. Academic Press.

McCulloch, M.T., Fallon, S., Wyndham, T., Hendy, E., Lough, J. and Barnes, D. 2003. Coral record of increased sediment flux to the inner Great Barrier Reef since European settlement. Nature 421: 727-730.

Pratchett, M.S. 2005. Dietary overlap among coral-feeding butterflyfishes (Chaetodontidae) at Lizard Island, northern Great Barrier Reef. Marine Biology 148: 373-382.

Pratchett, M.S. and Berumen, M.L. 2008. Interspecific variation in ditributions and diets of coral reef butterflyfishes (Teleostei: Chaetodontidae). Journal of Fish Biology 73: 1730-1747.

Pratchett, M.S., Munday, P.L., Wilson, S.K., Graham, N.A.J., Cinner, J.E., Bellwood, D.R., Jones, G.P., Polunin, N.V.C. and McClanahan, T.R. 2008. Effects of climate-induced coral bleaching on coral reef fishes - Ecological and economic consequences. Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review 46: 251-296.

Pratchett, M.S., Wilson, S.K. and Baird, A.H. 2006. Declines in the abundance of Chaetodon butterflyfishes following extensive coral depletion. Journal of Fish Biology 69: 1269-1280.

Pyle, R. 2001. Chaetodontidae. Butterflyfishes. In: K.E. Carpenter and V.H. Niem (eds), FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 5. Bony fishes part 3 (Menidae to Pomacentridae), pp. 3224-3265. FAO, Rome.

Citation: Myers, R. & Pratchett, M. 2010. Chaetodon rainfordi. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 28 August 2015.
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