The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Acanthurus guttatus
Acanthurus guttatus
(whitespotted surgeonfish)
Marine Fishes

Copyright Info
Acanthurus guttatus Forster in Bloch and Schneider, 1801

Common name: whitespotted surgeonfish

Synonyms and Other Names: Mustard surgeonfish

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: The body is deep with a small caudal fin; gray-brown in color with white bars towards the head. One bar reaches from nape across operculum and the other reaches from dorsal to pelvic just behind the pelvic fin.  Numerous white spots toward the posterior are scattered across body.  Pelvic fins are bright yellow.  Caudal fin is pale yellow towards the caudal peduncle. Dorsal fin IX (27-30), anal fin III (23-26), pectoral fin (15-17).  From Randall et al. (1996) and Randall (2005).

Native Range: The whitespotted surgeonfish is distributed in the Indo-Pacific from Mauritius to Indonesia, Micronesia, Hawai’i, and French Polynesia and southwest Japan to Great Barrier Reef and New Caledonia.  From Allen et al. (2003).

Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: In Florida, this species was observed near West Palm Beach in 2003 (REEF 2008).

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Acanthurus guttatus are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
FL200320031Florida Southeast Coast

Table last updated 7/17/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: The whitespotted surgeonfish is typically found in schools within the surge zone of exposed reefs and rocky shores (Randall 2005).  White spots on posterior body might help conceal them in the turbulent bubble-filled waters of the surf zone (Myers 1999).  The diet of whitespotted surgeonfish consist largely of filamentous algae (Randall 2005).  The species has been known to provide a critical trophic link between primary production (algae) and the detrital food web in the Pacific (Chartock 1983).  Year-round spawning has been reported in American Samoa where whitespotted surgeonfish have been observed to reproduce at dusk in channels draining fringe reefs (Craig 1998). 

Means of Introduction: Probable aquarium release.

Status: Reported from Florida.

Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.

References: (click for full references)

Allen, G., R. Steene, P. Humann and N. Deloach.  2003.  Reef Fish Identification.  Tropical Pacific.  New World Publications, Inc., Jacksonville, Florida and Odyssey Publications, El Cajon, California.

Chartock, M. A.  1983.  The role of Acanthurus guttatus (Bloch and Schneider 1801) in cycling algal production to detritus.  Biotropica 15: 117-121.

Craig, P. C.  1998.  Temporal spawning patterns of several surgeonfishes and wrasses in American Samoa.  Pacific Science 52: 35-39.

Myers, R. F.  1999.  Micronesian Reef Fishes.  A Field Guide for Divers and Aquarists.  Coral Graphics, Davie Florida.

Randall, J. E.  2005.  Reef and Shore Fishes of the South Pacific.  New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands.  University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu.

Randall, J. E., G. R. Allen and R. C. Steene.  1996.  Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea.  Second Edition.  University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF).  2008.  Exotic species sighting program and volunteer database. World wide web electronic publication. www.reef.org, date of download March 10, 2008. 

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: James A. Morris, Jr., and Pamela J. Schofield

Revision Date: 4/20/2018

Peer Review Date: 6/15/2009

Citation Information:
James A. Morris, Jr., and Pamela J. Schofield, 2024, Acanthurus guttatus Forster in Bloch and Schneider, 1801: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?SpeciesID=2760, Revision Date: 4/20/2018, Peer Review Date: 6/15/2009, Access Date: 7/17/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [7/17/2024].

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