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Nemadactylus douglasii (Porae).jpg
Porae, Nemadactylus douglasii
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cheilodactylidae
Bonaparte, 1850


Morwongs (also called butterfish, fingerfins, jackassfish, snappers, and moki) are perciform fishes comprising the family Cheilodactylidae. Most of the about 27 species are found in temperate and subtropical oceans in the Southern Hemisphere, but three (Cheilodactylus quadricornis, C. zebra and C. zonatus) are restricted to northwest Pacific off Japan and China, and C. vittatus is restricted to Hawaii.

Morwong is also used as a name for several unrelated fish found in Australian waters, such as the painted sweetlips, Diagramma pictum.


Several issues are yet to be resolved in the taxonomy of this family; at a higher level, the traditional delimitation of this family and Latridae is based on morphological differences, but the reliability of these differences has been questioned, and genetics do not support this treatment, either, leading some to suggest the majority should be in Latridae.[2][3] Based on this, the only species that should remain in the family Cheilodactylidae are the relatively small Cheilodactylus fasciatus and C. pixi from southern Africa.[2] This also means the broader definition of the genus Cheilodactylus is polyphyletic.[2][4] One suggested solution has been to leave about half the species in Cheilodactylus and move the remaining half to Goniistius,[4] but this relatively simple proposal does not take the extreme divergence of C. fasciatus and C. pixi into account.[2] All other "Cheilodactylus" species clearly do not belong with these two in Cheilodactylus and instead appear to belong in several different genera (only one of which is Goniistius), but how many and their exact delimitation is not clear at present.[2]

Cheilodactylus vittatus is endemic to Hawaii. Populations in the southwest Pacific, formerly included in C. vittatus, are actually a separate species, C. francisi.[5]
Cheilodactylus zonatus in Izu, Japan


The largest species grow up to 1.2 m (3.9 ft), but most species only reach around half that length. Several species of morwongs are commercially harvested as food fish, particularly in Australia. Their maximum weight is 70 kg (150 lb)[citation needed]. They live in large schools and inhabit depths from 25 m (82 ft) to 200 m (660 ft).


They feed on small invertebrates on the ocean floor.[6]


  1. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2015). "Cheilodactylidae" in FishBase. July 2015 version.
  2. ^ a b c d e Burridgea and Smolenski (2004). Molecular phylogeny of the Cheilodactylidae and Latridae (Perciformes: Cirrhitoidea) with notes on taxonomy and biogeography. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 30: 118–127
  3. ^ Randall (2007). Reef and Shore Fishes of the Hawaiian Islands. ISBN 1-929054-03-3
  4. ^ a b Burridge and White (2000). Molecular phylogeny of the antitropical subgenus Goniistius (Perciformes: Cheilodactylidae: Cheilodactylus): evidence for multiple transequatorial divergences and non-monophyly. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 70: 435–458.
  5. ^ Burridge (2004). Cheilodactylus (Goniistius) francisi, a new species of morwong (Perciformes: Cirrhitoidea) from the southwest Pacific. Rec. Aust. Mus. 56: 231-234.
  6. ^

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