Acanthurus pyroferus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Acanthuridae

Scientific Name: Acanthurus pyroferus Kittlitz, 1834
Common Name(s):
English Mimic Surgeonfish, Chocolate Surgeonfish, Orange-gilled Surgeonfish, Pacific Mimic Surgeon, Yellowspot Surgeon
French Chirurgien Porteur de Feu, Chirurgien Rose
Acanthurus armiger Valenciennes, 1834
Acanthurus celebicus Bleeker, 1852
Acanthurus fuscus Steindachner, 1861
Hepatus celebicus (Bleeker, 1852)
Hepatus pyriferus (Kittlitz, 1834)
Hepatus pyroferus (Kittlitz, 1834)
Rhombotides celebicus (Bleeker, 1852)
Taxonomic Notes: Hybrids of this species and A. tristis have been observed in Bali, Indonesia (Randall 2001a).

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., Abesamis, R., Clements, K.D., McIlwain, J., Myers, R., Nanola, C., Rocha, L.A., Russell, B. & Stockwell, B.
Reviewer(s): McClenachan, L., Edgar, G. & Kulbicki, M.
Acanthurus pyroferus is widespread and occurs in a wide range of habitats and is found in deeper water. It is caught incidentally for food. Juveniles are targeted for the aquarium trade. Harvest is not considered a major threat. It occurs in a number of marine protected areas in its range of distribution. It is therefore listed as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Acanthurus pyroferus is widespread in the Indo-Pacific and is found from French Polynesia (except Rapa) and the Line Islands to Wakayama Prefecture, Honshu, Japan, southwards to New South Wales, Australia. In the Indian Ocean it is recorded from Scott Reef, Western Australia (Allen and Russell 1986), Christmas Island (Allen & Steene 1988) and Cocos-Keeling Islands (Allen and Smith-Vaniz 1994).
Countries occurrence:
American Samoa; Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Christmas Island; Cocos (Keeling) Islands; Cook Islands; Disputed Territory (Paracel Is., Spratly Is.); Fiji; French Polynesia; Guam; Indonesia; Japan; Kiribati (Gilbert Is., Kiribati Line Is., Phoenix Is.); Malaysia; Marshall Islands; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Nauru; New Caledonia; Niue; Northern Mariana Islands; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Samoa; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Taiwan, Province of China; Thailand; Timor-Leste; Tokelau; Tonga; Tuvalu; United States Minor Outlying Islands (Howland-Baker Is.); Vanuatu; Viet Nam; Wallis and Futuna
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – southwest; Pacific – western central
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):60
Upper depth limit (metres):2
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Acanthurus pyroferus was recorded as common in terms of relative abundance in Milne Bay Province, northern Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea and Raja Ampat, Indonesia (Allen 2003, 2009, 2003b). It is occasional in Guam and Saipan (J. McIlwain unpub. data). In Bali, Indonesia it was recorded as abundant in Tulamben (L. Rocha pers. comm. 2010).

At Moorea, French Polynesia, SPOT satellite images allowed estimation of the surface area of fringing reef (1,076 ha), barrier reef (3,788 ha) and outer slope (493 ha). A total of 493 individuals was recorded in this area in fish visual surveys conducted from 1990-1993 (Lecchini et al. 2006). It is common in the American Samoa National Park (National Park of Samoa Checklist of Fishes accessed 21 April 2010). It is common in the Philippines (B. Stockwell pers. comm. 2010), occasional in the Calamianes Islands and Puerto Princesa City and more commonly found in the northeast side of Busuanga and offshore Islands, Philippines (Werner and Allen 2000, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development unpub. data).
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Acanthurus pyroferus is found solitary on coral reefs at depths from 2 to at least 60 m (Randall 2001a). It feeds on detritus and sediment (Choat et al. 2004).  It is classified as a grazer/detritivore (Choat and Bellwood pers obs. in Green and Bellwood 2009). Maximum age 28 years in the Great Barrier Reef (Choat and Robertson 2002a). 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).


Juveniles of this species mimic various species of pygmy angelfish (genus Centropyge) at different locations throughout the geographic range of the surgeonfish, while adopting a common species-specific coloration as adults (Eagle and Jones 2004). Juveniles exhibit a remarkable resemblance to C. flavissima in the Pacific Islands (Randall and Randall1960) and to C. vrolikii and C. heraldi in the Indo-Pacific region (Myers 1989, Kuiter 1996).

Eagle and Jones (2004) show that A. pyroferus juveniles gain a foraging advantage by mimicking C. vrolikii. In Moorea, French Polynesia where juveniles of A. pyroferus mimic C. flavissima, Rainey (2009) showed that this close resemblance to the pygmy angelfish does not provide this species with access to damselfish Stegastes nigricans territories. A. pyroferus appears to exemplify 'competitive mimicry' (Rainey and Grether 2007, Rainey 2009).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Acanthurus pyroferus is collected for the aquarium trade. Online prices range from $34.99-$69.99 per fish (L. Rocha pers. comm. 2010). It is incidentally caught as food.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Though targeted for the marine aquarium trade, there are no indications of population declines from harvesting.

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.

Classifications [top]

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.

Allen, G.R. and Russell, B.C. 1986. Fishes (of Rowley Shoals - Scott Reef). Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement No. 25: 75-103.

Allen, G.R. and Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1994. Fishes of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 412: 21.

Allen, G.R. and Steene, R.C. 1988. Fishes of Christmas Island Indian Ocean. Christmas Island Natural History Association, Christmas Island, Australia.

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

Eagle, J.V. and Jones, G.P. 2004. Mimicry in coral reef fishes: ecological and behavioural responses of a mimic to its model. Journal of Zoology, London 264: 33-43.

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.

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

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to sea fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. New Holland (Publishers) Ltd., Sydney.

Lecchini, D., Polti, S., Nakamura, Y., Mosconi, P., Tsuchiya, M., Remoissenet, G. and Planes, S. 2006. New perspectives on aquarium fish trade. Fisheries Science 72: 40-47.

Myers, R.F. 1989. Micronesian reef fishes: A practical guide to the identification of the inshore marine fishes of the tropical central and western Pacific. Coral Graphics, Barrigada, Guam.

National Park of American Samoa. 2008. Fishes of National Park of American Samoa Checklist of Fishes Family Name Listing. Available at: (Accessed: 21 April).

Rainey, M.M. 2009. Evidence of a geographically varaible competitive mimicry relationship in coral reef fishes. Journal of Zoology 279: 78-85.

Rainey, M.M. & Grether, G.F. 2007. Competitive mimicry: synthesis of a neglected class of mimetic relationships. Ecology 88: 2440-2448.

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

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.

Randall, J.E. and Randall, H.A. 1960. Example of mimicry and protective resemblance in tropical marine fishes. Bulletin of Marine Science of the Gulf and Caribbean 10(4): 444-480.

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.

Citation: Choat, J.H., Abesamis, R., Clements, K.D., McIlwain, J., Myers, R., Nanola, C., Rocha, L.A., Russell, B. & Stockwell, B. 2012. Acanthurus pyroferus. In: . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T178022A1523952. . Downloaded on 20 September 2018.
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