Chirocentrus dorabDorab(Also: Knife-fish; Leaping silver-bar; Ribbon-fish; Wolf herring)

Geographic Range

Blackfin wolf-herrings, Chirocentrus dorab, are found throughout the Indian Ocean, ranging from the eastern shores of Africa to the Solomon Islands. They can be found as far north as southern Japan and as far south as northern Australia. (Fishbase, 2010)


Blackfin wolf-herrings prefer warm coastal waters, often in inland areas. They inhabit brackish and marine waters up to depths of 120 m. This species, however, is most commonly found in turbulent waters at depths from 9 to 28 m. Blackfin wolf-herrings also frequent coral reefs, which are potential hunting grounds. (Fishbase, 2010; Luther and Dharma Raja, 1982; Luther, 1973; Luther, 1985a; Nagabhushanam, 1966; Whitehead, 1985)

  • Range depth
    0 to 120 m
    0.00 to 393.70 ft
  • Average depth
    9 to 28 m

Physical Description

Blackfin wolf-herrings are narrow elongated fish, so named for the black markings on the upper part of the dorsal fin and the wolf-like canines protruding from their mandible and premaxilla. These black markings set this species apart from its closest relative Chirocentrus nudus, whitefin wolf-herrings. The wide mandible of blackfin wolf-herrings appears to point almost directly upward when their mouth is closed. Members of the family Chirocentridae have been characterized as long herrings. On average, the fork lengths (distance from tip of lower jaw to the fork of caudal fin) of most blackfin wolf-herrings range from 14 to 71 cm. Some blackfin wolf-herrings have been recorded at over 1 meter long. Members of this species generally weigh between 170 and 1200 g. (Cockerell, 1914; Fishbase, 2010; Fowler, 1931; Luther, 1966; Luther, 1973; Nothofer, 2010; Sazima, et al., 2004)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    170 to 1200 g
    5.99 to 42.29 oz
  • Average mass
    800 g
    28.19 oz
  • Range length
    3 to 120 cm
    1.18 to 47.24 in
  • Average length
    70 cm
    27.56 in


Intra-ovarian eggs of blackfin wolf-herrings reach maturity at 50 to 65 millidarcies (measurement of permeability) and are then released by the female. Males typically mature at smaller sizes than females. The growth rate remains constant in males until they reach 30 cm and in females until they reach 40 cm, after which there is a marked decline in growth rate. (Fishbase, 2010; Luther, 1985b; Prabhu, 1956; Whitehead, 1985)


Blackfin wolf-herrings reproduce by spawning, though little information is available regarding specific mating systems of this species. Mating systems are likely similar to those of other members of the suborder Clupeoidei. Clupeoids generally disperse pelagic eggs, which are fertilized and then drift through the current or adhere to substrate. (Luther, 1973; Whitehead, 1985)

Little information is available regarding the breeding of blackfin wolf-herrings. Like other members of the order Clupeiformes, blackfin wolf-herrings are believed to breed once annually, producing many offspring. Reports of spawning activity varies by location. Spawning generally occurs from April to June, but in some areas spawning occurs as late as October. In some cases around the Rameswaram Islands, spawning has been reported to begin in December. (Luther, 1973; Luther, 1985b; Whitehead, 1985)

  • Breeding interval
    Blackfin wolf-herrings breed once annually.
  • Breeding season
    Blackfin wolf-herrings generally breed between April and October
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 minutes
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 minutes

As with all spawning fishes, blackfin wolf-herrings do not demonstrate investment in their offspring post-fertilization. (Luther, 1985b; Whitehead, 1985)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


Longevity of blackfin wolf-herrings is not well documented. Age of blackfin wolf-herrings can be estimated through a model of growth rate for this species, which uses measures of length (to the caudal fork) and of a portion of a bone called the otolith. Due to this technical procedure, relatively few individuals have been aged. Most members of this species aged using this method were 4 to 6 years of age, though some were as old as 13 years of age. (Luther, 1985b)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    6 to 13 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    2 to 13 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    6 years


Unlike most herring fishes, blackfin wolf-herrings are often found in small groups rather than large schools. However, schooling maybe more prevalent in this species during its larval stage to avoid predation. (Luther and Dharma Raja, 1982; Luther, 1966; Nagabhushanam, 1966)

Home Range

Blackfin wolf-herring tend to stay close to shore or in brackish bays with a relatively small territory that they do not defend. (Cockerell, 1914; Luther and Dharma Raja, 1982; Nagabhushanam, 1966; Whitehead, 1985)

Communication and Perception

Fish of the suborder Clupeoidei, including blackfin wolf-herrings, have a phenomenal ability to hear due to two pairs of air bubbles inside their inner ears. Some members of this suborder can even detect ultrasonic frequencies. Pacific herrings (Clupea pallasii), for example, alter their feeding and schooling behaviors when sounds of toothed whales are imitated in a controlled environment. Some similar species of herring not only react to, but also produce high frequency sounds by releasing air bubbles. Because they feed primarily during the day, members of this genus g. Chirocentrus are also thought to utilize sight to hunt. (Gray and Denton, 1991; Wilson, et al., 2004)

Food Habits

As a carnivorous fish, blackfin wolf-herrings prey mainly on other members of the order Clupeiformes, as well as members of the class Cephalopoda (octopus and squid). Sardines, however, are preferred prey of this species, particularly Sardinella albella and Sardinella gibbosa. Juveniles also display this carnivorous behavior, feeding on small shrimp, post-larvae, and early juvenile fish. The diet of blackfin wolf-herrings is seasonally consistent. As they feed primarily during the day, members of this genus g. Chirocentrus are thought to rely on sight to hunt. (Luther, 1985b; Luther, 1985a; Sazima, et al., 2004)

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • mollusks
  • aquatic crustaceans


Blackfin wolf-herrings lack many natural predators, and its mostly silver body acts as camouflage. Humans <<Homo sapiens>>) are the primary predator of this species, which are used for food and for bait. (Cockerell, 1914; Fishbase, 2010; Luther and Dharma Raja, 1982; Luther, 1973; Whitehead, 1985)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Blackfin wolf-herrings are common predators of sardines. They also act as host to marine leeches, Nerocila phaiopleura, which attach at the branchial/shoulder region of a host fish. Leeches do not cause harm to the fish while feeding. As the leech releases from its host, however, it leaves small skin lesions at its point of attachment. These lesions allow easy access for pathogenic microbes and infections like vibriosis. Vibriosis is an infection caused by a group of bacteria from the genus g. Vibrio. (Jha and Homechaudhuri, 2001; Luther, 1966; Luther, 1973)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Blackfin wolf herrings are an important part of the fishing industry and make up a large percentage of catches along the Pacific coastlines. Fishery reports from Tanzania, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Maylasia, Singapore and the Philippines recorded catches of the genus Chirocentrus totaling 50,083 tons in 1983. As a gamefish, wolf-herrings are targeted by many fisheries in the Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean. They are typically caught using gillnets, seines, shawls and traps. Blackfin wolf-herrings are marketed fresh, frozen, or dried and salted. Blackfin wolf herrings are also used as bait for other trophy fish. (Cockerell, 1914; Fishbase, 2010; Luther and Dharma Raja, 1982; Luther, 1973; Nagabhushanam, 1966; Rasoanandrasana, et al., 1997; Whitehead, 1985)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Despite stories of fisherman being bitten by blackfin wolf-herrings, currently there are no known adverse effects of Chirocentrus dorab on humans. These accidental bites are believed to result from mishandling of captured fish. (Bond, 1979)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans
    • bites or stings

Conservation Status

Blackfin wolf-herrings are not currently listed at risk by the IUCN, CITES, or the US Federal List. Abundant fishing of this species is not currently know to drastically affect populations.


Michael Herring (author), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, Gail McCormick (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.


Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

brackish water

areas with salty water, usually in coastal marshes and estuaries.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


an animal that mainly eats fish


structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate


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Cockerell, T. 1914. Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Fisheries. Washington: Washington Government Printing Office.

Fishbase, 2010. "Dorab wolf-herring" (On-line). Accessed September 17, 2010 at

Fowler, H. 1931. A Synopsis of the Fishes of China. Part II. The Herrings and related fishes. The Hong Kong Naturalist, 2: 69-75.

Gray, J., E. Denton. 1991. Fast pressure pulses and communication. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 71: 83-106.

Ishiguro, N., K. Saitoh. 2007. Phylogenetic relationships among anchovies, sardines, herrings and their relatives (Clupeiformes), inferred from whole mitogenome sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 43: 1096–1105.

Jha, A., S. Homechaudhuri. 2001. Parasite-induced vibriosis in Chirocentrus dorab off Parangipettai coastal waters. Current Science, 80 (5): 622-623.

Luther, G. 1985. Age and Growth of the Fishes of the Genus Chirocentrus Cuvier. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India, 27 (1&2): 50-67.

Luther, G. 1985. Food and Feeding Habits of the Two Species of Chirocentrus and Mandapam. Indian Journal of Fisheries, 32 (4): 439-446.

Luther, G. 1966. On the little known fish, Chirocentrus nudus Swainson from the Indian Seas, and its comparison with Chirocentrus dorab (Forskal). Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India, 8 (1): 193-201.

Luther, G. 1973. The Dorab Fishery Resources of India. Proceedings of the Syposium on Living Resources of The Seas Around India, 11: 445-454.

Luther, G., S. Dharma Raja. 1982. Population Studies on the Fishes of the Genus Chirocentrus Cuvier. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India, 24 (1&2): 118-123.

Nagabhushanam, A. 1966. A Survey of the Offshore Demersal Fisheries of the Andhra and Orissa coasts, with special reference to the biological data collected during 1960. Indian Journal of Fisheries, 13 (1&2): 359-376.

Nothofer, B. 2010. The Fish and the Loom: Toward a United Semantic Reconstruction. Oceanic Linguistics, 49 (1): 144-162.

Prabhu, M. 1956. Maturation of the Intra-Ovarian Eggs and Spawning Periodicities in Some Fishes. Indian Journal of Fisheries, 3 (1): 59-90.

Rasoanandrasana, N., E. Baran, J. Laroche. 1997. Temporal patterns in a fish assemblage of a semiarid mangrove zone in Madagascar. Journal of Fish Biology, 51: 3-20.

Sazima, I., R. Moura, C. Sazima. 2004. Chirocentrodon bleekerianus (TELEOSTEI: CLUPEIFORMES: PRISTIGASTERIDAE), A Small Predaceous Herring with Folded and Distinctively Oriented Prey in Stomach. Brazilian Journal of Biology, 64 (1): 165-168.

Sommer, C., W. Schneider, J. Poutiers. 1996. The living marine resources of Somalia. 1996 Food and Agriculture Organization species identification field guide for fishery purposes, 1: 376.

Whitehead, P. 1985. Food and Agriculture Organization Species Catalogue. Clupeoid fishes of the World (Suborder Clupeoidei) : an annotated and illustrated catalogue of the herrings, sardines, pilchards, sprats, anchioves and wolf-herrings., 125/7 (1): 23-24.

Wilson, B., R. Batty, L. Dill. 2004. Pacific and Atlantic herring produce burst pulse sounds. Proceedings of The Royal Society B, 271: S95-S97.

Wilson, B., L. Dill. 2002. Pacific herring respond to simulated odontocete echolocation sounds. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 59(3): 542-553.