Chaetodon xanthocephalus (Bennett, 1833)
Chaetodon xanthocephalus (Bennett, 1833)
Genus: ,

Scientific Name: Chaetodon xanthocephalus

English Name: Yellowhead butterflyfish

Creole Name: Papiyon

French Name: Papillon à tête jaune

IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern (LC)


Dorsal spines: 13 - 14; Dorsal rays: 21-26; Anal spines: 3; Anal rays: 21-23.

An uncommon butterflyfish with distinct appearance. Protruded snout with terminal mouth. Dorsal head profile distinctly concave.

Colour. Colour pattern changes considerably with growth. Juveniles are white-bodied with distinctive black eyeband and black spot on peduncle.

Adults are beautifully and subtly coloured. Body is white to pale grey or almost eggshell blue with (5-6) fine grey-blue chevron markings. The forehead, face and breast down 
to the pelvic fins is yellow (paler above the eye and richer yellow below) with a small elongate patch of white in front of the eye. The eye is yellow with a dark vertical 
bar through the iris. The opercular edge and base of pectoral fin are yellow. The dorsal and anal fins are dusky yellow with peripheral narrow bands of black, white and then 
a broad margin of pale yellow. Pelvic fin is yellow. Pectoral fin is hyaline to transparent. The caudal fin has yellow edges but is otherwise hyaline to transparent.  


Maturity: Lm unknown. Range unknown. Max Length: 20cm TL.

Habitat and Ecology:

Associated with rocky reefs rich in algae and coral-rich areas of lagoons (depth 1-30m, usually 2-20m). Usually solitary or in pairs. Roam widely over reefs, feeding on 
benthic algae and coral polyps. Oviparous. Form pairs during breeding.

Fishery Status:

This species is not protected or subject to fishery regulations. It may be caught in the trap and net fisheries but would generally be released.


 1 Photo. courtesy Eleanor Brighton and Chris Mason-Parker (c) 2022 Blue Safari Seychelles/Marine Conservation Society, Seychelles. Photograph taken at Alphonse group 2022.


Froese, R. & D. Pauly. (Eds.) (2020). FishBase. (23/05/20).
Myers, R. & Pratchett, M. (2010). Chaetodon xanthocephalus. The IUCN Red List 2010: (23/05/20).
Smith, M. & Heemstra, P. (Eds.) (1999). Smiths’ Sea Fishes Edition 6. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 10.1007/978-3-642-82858-4


Nevill, J.E.G. (2020). Chaetodon xanthocephalus, Yellowhead butterflyfish. Seychelles Seatizens. (edited 18/07/22).

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