Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory



<I>Parma unifasciata</I> from NSW

Parma unifasciata from NSW

<I>Chromis vanderbilti</I> from Norfolk Island

Chromis vanderbilti from Norfolk Island


Regional Maps

External Links

CAAB: 37372000



Compiler and date details

24 May 2017 - Dianne J. Bray, Gerald R. Allen, Douglass F. Hoese, Norbert J. Cross & Connie J. Allen & Alice M. Clement

15 May 2015 - Dianne J. Bray, Gerald R. Allen, Norbert J. Cross & Connie J. Allen & Alice M. Clement

Gerald R. Allen, Norbert J. Cross & Connie J. Allen


The Pomacentridae, commonly known as damselfishes, is the third largest fish family in Australia after the Gobiidae and the Labridae. The family comprises more than 390 species in 28 genera (Eschmeyer & Fong 2014). Nelson et al. (2016) indicated 29 genera and 387 species. From Australia including territorial waters, 155 species and 22 genera are thus far known. Allen (1991) recognised four subfamilies: Amphiprioninae (including Amphiprion and Premnas); Chrominae (including Acanthochromis, Auzurina, Chromis, Dascyllus and Mecaenichthys); Lepidozyginae (including only Lepidozygus) and Pomacentrinae (including the remaining genera). Tang (2001), Jang-Liaw et al. (2002), Quenouille et al. (2004), Tang et al. (2004), & Cooper et al. (2009) studied phylogenetic relationships and found the subfamilies Chrominae and Pomacentrinae, along with a number of traditionally recognised genera to be polyphyletic. The subfamily arrangement is not used here. Nelson et al (2016) placed the family with various families included here as Percoidei (eg. Pseudochromidae, Ambassidae, Grammatidae, etc.), but retained the subfamilies of Allen (1991).

The family is represented in all tropical and warm temperate seas, and most species inhabit coral reefs. However the monotypic Mecaenichthys and most members of the genus Parma are found on rocky reefs of southern Australia. A variety of feeding modes are displayed, and most species feed on either small invertebrates or benthic algae, or frequently a combination of these items. Others have very specialised food requirements, for example species of Cheiloprion and Plectroglyphidodon feed on coral polyps and most species of Chromis consume zooplankton. Pomacentrids are laterally compressed fishes with an ovate to fusiform body. They are small, usually under 15 cm in length, but more frequently less than 8 cm. Because of their small size the group is of little commercial importance, although some of the colourful species, such as the anemonefishes (Amphiprion), are sold in the aquarium industry (Fautin & Allen 1992).

Diagnoses, illustrations and keys for most of the Australian species are provided by Allen (1975a, 1991). Species are variously treated in Randall & Allen (1997), Allen (2001) and Allen & Erdmann (2012). Generic revisions include those of Allen (1972, 1975b) on Amphiprion, Allen & Hoese (1975) on Parma, Randall & Allen (1977) on Dascyllus and Allen & Emery (1985) on Stegastes Bernardi & Crane (1999) and McCafferty et al. (2002) studied molecular systematics of Dascyllus, and Tang et al. (2004) studied molecular systematics of five genera. Various authors (Tang 2001; Jang-Liaw et al. 2002; Quenouille et al. 2004; Cooper et al. 2009) studied molecular systematics of the family. Cooper & Westneat (2009) studied the form and function of damselfish skulls. Larvae are treated in Kavanagh et al. (2000).


General References

Allen, G.R. 1972. Anemonefishes, their Classification and Biology. Neptune CityNew Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 288 pp., 140 figs.

Allen, G.R. 1975a. Damselfishes of the South Seas. New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 237 pp. 251 figs.

Allen, G.R. 1975b. The Anemone Fishes. Their Classification and Biology. Neptune City, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 2, 351 pp.

Allen, G.R. 1991. Damselfishes of the World. Melle, Germany : Mergus Verlag 271 pp.

Allen, G. R. 2001. Family Pomacentridae. pp. in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 6 pp. 3381-4218.

Allen, G.R. & Emery, A.R. 1985. A review of the pomacentrid fishes of the genus Stegastes from the Indo-west Pacific with descriptions of two new species. Indo-Pacific Fishes 3: 1-31 figs 1-5 pls 1-3

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Allen, G.R. & Hoese, D.F. 1975. A review of the pomacentrid fish genus Parma, with descriptions of two new species. Records of the Western Australian Museum 3(4): 261-294 figs 1-18

Bernardi, G. & Crane, N.L. 1999. Molecular phylogeny of the humbug damselfishes inferred from mtDNA sequences. Journal of Fish Biology 54: 1210–1217

Cooper, W.J., Smith, L.L. & Westneat, M.W. 2009. Exploring the radiation of a diverse reef fish family: Phylogenetics of the damselfishes (Pomacentridae), with new classifications based on molecular analyses of all genera. 52(2009):1–16. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 52: 1-16

Cooper, W.J. & Westneat, M.W. 2009. Form and function of damselfish skulls: rapid and repeated evolution into a limited number of trophic niches. 2009, 9:24. BMC Evolutionary Biology 9: 24 pp.

Eschmeyer, W.N. & Fong, J.D. 2014. Species of Fishes by family/subfamily. Catalog of Fishes. Online version updated 19 May 2014.

Fautin, D.G. & Allen, G.R. 1992. Field Guide to Anemonefishes and their Host Sea Anemones. Perth : Western Australian Museum 160 pp.

Jang-Liaw, N.H., Tang, K.L., Hui, C.-F., Shao, K.-T. 2002. Molecular phylogeny of 48 species of damselfishes (Perciformes: Pomacentridae) using 12S mtDNA sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 25: 445–454

Kavanagh, K.D., Leis, J.M., Rennis, D.S. 2000. Pomacentridae. pp.526–535 in Leis, J.M. & Carson-Ewart, B.M. The larvae of Indo-Pacific coastal fishes. An identification guide to marine fish larvae. Fauna Malesiana Handbooks Leiden : Brill Vol. 2 870 pp.

McCafferty, S., Bermingham, E., Quenouille, B., Planes, S., Hoelzer, G. & Asoh, K. 2002. Historical biogeography and molecular systematics of the Indo-Pacific genus Dascyllus (Teleostei: Pomacentridae). Molecular Ecology 11: 1377–1392

Nelson, J.S., Grande, T.C. & Wilson, M.V.H. 2016. Fishes of the World. Hoboken, New Jersey : John Wiley & Sons 5, 752 pp.

Quenouille, B., Bermingham, E. & Serge Planes, S. 2004. Molecular systematics of the damselfishes (Teleostei: Pomacentridae): Bayesian phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 31: 66–88

Randall, H.A. & Allen, G.R. 1977. A revision of the damselfish genus Dascyllus Pomacentridae) with the description of a new species. Records of the Australian Museum 31(9): 349-385 figs 1-11

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs.

Tang, K.L. 2001. Phylogenetic relationships among damselfishes (Teleostei: Pomacentridae) as determined by mitochondrial DNA data. Copeia 2001(3): 591-601

Tang, K.L., McNyset, K.M. & Holcroft, N.I. 2004. The phylogenetic position of five genera (Acanthochromis, Azurina, Chrysiptera, Dischistodus, and Neopomacentrus) of damselfishes (Perciformes: Pomacentridae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 30: 823–828


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
27-Jul-2017 LABROIDEI 03-Jul-2017 MODIFIED Dr Dianne Bray (NMV) Dr Doug Hoese (AM) Dr Matthew Lockett (AM)
12-Feb-2010 (import)