John Dory Fish: Characteristics, types, curious facts and more….

The John Dory FishSt Pierre or Peter’s Fish (Zeus Faber in scientific terms), belongs to the family Zeidae, and to the big teleost’s fish Family. (Bony skeleton fish with full and biconcave vertebrae). Join us to learn everything about them.

Origin of Its Name.

Its name has many origins and explanations according to the site where this animal is located. The first of them comes from the English language, where it is known like John Dory Fish, which could refer to the French word «dorée» which means gold and yellow «jaune», or by an old hero of an English-Scottish ballad called John Dory.

On the other hand, is the novel of Jules Verne, «The Sphinx of the Ice» which in English is titled «An Antartic Mystery», which describes the John Dory fish as «Janitore» or the Keeper of the door, referring to his resemblance with Saint Peter, who watches over the gates of heaven.

But perhaps the most accepted and known story by people about his name can be found in the Bible when Jesus says to Peter, «Go to the lake, pull the hook, open the mouth of the first fish you catch and you’ll find the currency we need to pay , give it to me «(Matthew, XVII, 27).

In obeying his lord, he left marked his fingerprints index and thumb, on the sides of the animal, to remove the silver coin that would serve for the corresponding payment. In German they are known as «Heringskönig», a word that if translated literally into Spanish means “King of Sardines «.

Main Characteristics of the John Dory Fish.

The John Dory Fish has a laterally compressed and oval-shaped body, with an olive-yellow coloration which makes a sort of pattern of horizontal lines that start in its head and end up in the tail.  In addition, they have a large dark spot on each side.

The St Pierre fish’ head (as they are also known)   is very large and is topped by many osseous crests. The dorsal fin has elongated filaments and both pectoral and ventral fins are very well developed. Their eyes are also large, while the mouth is protractile.

Their spine has big strong thorns that resemble a rooster’s crest, this being the reason why in some parts of the world they are also known as rooster fish, although this wrong denomination 

usually causes confusion with another specimen of the same name.

Their abdomen has between 8 to 9 thorny plaques that cover it, and the rays of the dorsal and anal fins have small thorns in the base that hold them to the body.

Unlike some marine fish St Pierre fish has 2 dorsal fins instead of one, the first one being formed between 7 and 10 thorns while the second is formed by 30 soft rays.

When they reach adulthood they develop long filaments in the back of the dorsal fin. Their pelvic fins lack thorns, like the bones of the operculum that is e closed on many occasions.

This interesting and very tasty fish has very small and rudimentary scales that in some specimens are even absent or are found only in the lateral line.

It eyes are large and of an intense yellow coloration, with a black iris located on either side of his head, while the nostrils are just below the eyes and very close to each other, being separated only by a dermal bridge.

Other Interesting Traits

The John Dory Fish has a life expectancy of around 12 years, in which it reaches up to 60 centimeters and 10 kilograms of weight.  John Dory Fish tend to be solitary fish which in few cases make up small shoals of 6 or 7 individuals or during mating times when a large number of fish are gathered.  Their most common enemies are sand sharks and other large bony fish larger than them.

However, their very ugly appearance is probably their most outstanding trait, which made it go unnoticed for a long time by the fishermen and consumers, who still prefer to consume hakes, sturgeons, snappers or sardines. We invite you to read our article the anatomy of fish to learn more about such an interesting topic.

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Habitat and Distribution

In terms of habitat, the John Dory is a pelagic fish, that is to say, it lives near the surface of the sea, without reaching more than 200 meters of depth. They usually bury themselves in the sand at the bottom of the sea, climbing seldom to the surface to hunt their prey without being seen. In terms of distribution  they can be found in almost all the seas of the world, especially at the Mediterranean and Black Sea Black Sea. They are also spread in the eastern Atlantic specifically in New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

jhon dory fish: pelagic zone

What Does the John Dory Fish Eat?

This species is  above in the trophic chain, since it consumes a wide variety of fish, especially in juvenile forms. Among its favorite fish, sardines,  and anchovies stand out.  They have a very original hunting technique that consists of burying at the bottom of the sea leaving out only its crest or dorsal thorns to use them as bait.

Another technique widely used by the John Dory fish is to slowly approach its victim and pounce on it while it has the snout extended, taking advantage of its slender body that makes it a fast swimmer.

John Dory Fish : just a wonderful a very funy species

How Does John Dory Fish Reproduce?

The dory fish takes a few years to reach adulthood and be ready for reproduction. They should grow about 3 to 4 years to be able to have their own offspring, when they reach a length of between 29 to 35 centimeters.  They carry out an oviparous reproduction that is to say, the female makes an external lying of eggs that she releases to the sea to be fertilized by the male, who releases sperm on top of them.

For the laying of the eggs, the adults choose shallow waters of approximately 100 meters below sea level, since both the eggs and the larvae are benthic, that is to say, they reside in the bottom of the ocean while they develop and leave their embryo. This process usually occurs during the summer months, although in the specimens that are in slightly warmer water the process can occur before (in the spring months).

The younger specimens can travel long distances to find the ideal place for their new offspring, however older and larger individuals usually stay in the same area of celebration.  After the start, they tend to have a great appetite and become very voracious.

Species of John Dory Fish

The  Zeidae family has only two genera where they are grouped 6 species . Some species have similar or varied names that can cause confusion for those who do not know this specimen. For this reason we will study more thoroughly the species, to leave all the doubts clear about this fish.

Genus Zenopsis.

It is the first genus of the Zeidae family which brings together 4 species of marine fish that are spread all over the seas. On this occasion we will study only the most known species of this genus, due to the little information and similarities that one has of the other species.  This genus of fish has data of fossils dating back to times before the Oligocene period, so it is considered the oldest. They are found especially in deeper waters lower than the range of humans ‘ diving.  These fish were described and studied for the first time by Theodore Nicholas Gill, an ichthyologist, paleontologist and librarian from new York in the year 1862.

Zenopsis conchifer.

This is a bony fish that has a moderate size and is highly valued locally, especially on the coasts of Andalusia. Its nickname of rooster fish is due to its wide and erect dorsal fin that makes it resemble a rooster.

They have a somewhat different aspect because their dorsal profile is concave and the lower jaw is more prominent than the upper one, remembering the shape of the Piranha fish.(int) In addition the  Zenopsis conchifer has a skin of shiny silver color.


– Atlantic: North and South

– Mediterranean: Alboran Sea

– Indian

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Zenopsis nebulosa.

This species has a maximum length of 70 centimeters, and a weigh of up to 3 kilograms, having a long and prosperous life of up to 45 years.  Zenopsis nebulosa can be found in a range of depth that varies between 30 and 800 meters below sea level, although the most common is that it is between 50 to 600 meters deep. They are distributed in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, more specifically in Japan, northwest between Australia and Broken Bay, and New South Wales in New Zealand. It is also found in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in the area of both central and southern California in the United States.

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Zenopsis stabilispinosa.

This species only reaches 41 centimeters in length. The Zenopsis stabilispinosa has a more elongated crest than the other species. They can be found at an approximate depth of between 209 and 767 meters below sea level, distributed throughout the Indo Pacific in Western Australia, in the eastern and southern China Sea.

Genus Zeus.

This genus was described and studied for the first time by Carlos Linneo, a Swedish scientist, zoologist and botanist in 1758. In addition to the common John Dory Fish, there is also a second species of fish that is mostly known as cape John Dory fish.

Zeus capensis. (Cape Dory)

It was discovered and studied by the French zoologist Achille Valenciennes, during 1835, who noticed the resemblance between this species and the common John Dory Fish. However he also noticed that they were two different species. The first difference with his closest cousin is that Zeus capensis lacks the characteristic black spot on the sides of this species.

In addition, its color is a silver gray with some golden tones. It can measure up to 90 centimeters. Its dorsal fin is a little smaller than those of the previous genus, which is a fundamental difference to identify them. Zeus capensis feeds especially on other smaller fish, cephalopods and crustaceans. In terms of habitat this species Mainly inhabits at depths varying between 35 and 200 meters below sea level, in the western part of the Indian Ocean, near the Mozambique coasts and at Cape of Good Hope, from which it takes its name.

Zeus faber.

This was the first fish studied by Linnaeus in 1758, with which the genus Zeus was initiated, later joined by the Zeus capensis, studied by the French zoologist Achille Valenciennes in 1835.  This is the most common John Dory Fish in European countries, especially in Spain. It stands out for its thin body and its beautiful gold and silver colors and the dark spot on each side of its body.

Zeus faber are very different from their cousins ​​of the genus Zenopsis, not only because of their color, but also because of the shape of their body, since they are more elongated and also the lower jaw of their mouth is not as prominent as is the case of their relatives.

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John Dory Fish In gastronomy

This is a semi fatty and saltwater fish. Although many chefs claim that it is the new culinary boom, at the diner level there is still very little known about the species, so it is not very consumed in the world.

Although it is a pretty ugly fish, which has made it unimportant for gastronomy and fishermen, many who have dared to try it claim that its meat is fine and exquisite.  The main problem about this species is given by the loss in its meat once it begins to be cleaned, since up to 50% of this fish is lost when removing its head, spines and fins.  However, some people say it is not a real waste, since with such parts you can make other meals.

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Curious facts about John Dory Fish

  • It is said that San Pedro was demanded the taxes that Cesar demanded from the inhabitants of Rome, and since he should not have money, he did not think twice and put his hand in the water and took out a fish. He opened his mouth, took out a coin and with it paid the taxes claimed.
  • The name of John Dory Fish comes from the black spot on each side that corresponds to the mark of the apostle’s fingers. Its meat can be compared to the Turbot, although the John Dory Fish has more spines.

  • In London, on the afternoon of May 5, 1848, a strange rain fell. Charles Fort ( an American researches) wrote this note about such a rain.: «At 5 o’clock in the afternoon the sky was peaceful over the city of London.» Suddenly, without warning, a strong gale began to blow through the awnings and hats. It was extinguished and a dense darkness collapsed over the city, it could barely be seen two steps away, and from that moment a copious shower of water and fish began to fall from above, and thousands and thousands of small fish fell for almost an hour.
  • 15 cm long, with a silver color and large fins, examined by the experts, they could not be recognized, samples were sent to all the Universities of England and none could say what species these fish were in. Finally, a communication arrived from the Cairo and signed by the dean of the faculty of natural sciences of that city reported that these fish corresponded to a species of fresh water that proliferated in the Sea of ​​Galilee. It could not be explained how they had fallen. In London those fish that the Palestinians call St Peters’ Fish.

This is not the same case but it worths watching it



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