Dories: Zeiformes

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DORIES: Zeiformes



Dories are oval to disk shaped and very thin when viewed from the front. The size ranges from 4 inches (10 centimeters) for the dwarf dory to 3 feet (91 centimeters), 12 pounds (5.4 kg) for the South African Cape dory. Most dories are silver, bronze, brown, or red. Dories can change color in seconds from silver to dark brown or gray.


Dories live on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and its connecting seas, in the Indian Ocean, and on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.


Most dories live near the bottom of water 115 to 5100 feet (35 to 1500 meters) deep. Some live in middle depths or near the surface. Some species have a young open-water stage and live near the surface in the open ocean. Adults live on sandy, muddy, rocky bottoms.


Dories feed mainly on a variety of fishes but also eat shellless mollusks (MAH-lusks) and crustaceans (krus-TAY-shuns). Mollusks are animals with a soft, unsegmented body that may or may not have a shell. Crustaceans are water-dwelling animals that have jointed legs and a hard shell but no backbone. Young dories of the larger species, adult dwarf dories, and tinselfishes eat animal plankton. Plankton are microscopic plants and animals drifting in water.


Little is known of the behavior of dories. Adult John dories are mainly solitary. Buckler dories often live in small groups. Female dories grow larger than males. Dories apparently release eggs and sperm into the water, and fertilization (FUR-teh-lih-zay-shun), or the joining of egg and sperm to start development, takes place in the sea. The eggs and larvae (LAR-vee) drift in open water and float near the surface. Larvae are animals in an early stage and must change form before becoming adults.


Larger dories are of commercial importance as food fishes. Most dories are caught by trawlers, which are fishing boats dragging nets, but a few of the larger species are caught with hook and line.

Dory Not a Dory

In the animated film Finding Nemo, Dory is a regal tang, not a dory.


Dories are not threatened or endangered.


Physical characteristics: Red boarfish are about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail fin. The head and body are shaped like a disk or diamond and are very narrow when viewed from the front. The body, cheeks, and gill covers are coated with small, rough scales. The body is pale, silvery red with a dark red bar that starts at the dorsal (DOOR-suhl) fin, goes along the back and across the tail, and ends at the front of the anal (AY-nuhl) fin. The dorsal fin is the one along the midline of the back. The anal fin is the one along the midline of the belly. Another red bar lies above and below the eyes. The belly and lower rear part of the head are silvery white.

Geographic range: Red boarfish live in the western part of the Pacific Ocean.

Habitat: Red boarfish live at the bottom at depths of 330 to 3,000 feet (100 to 900 meters).

Diet: Scientists are not sure what red boarfish eat. They believe it is probably plankton and small invertebrates, or animals without backbones.

Behavior and reproduction: Scientists do not know much about the behavior and reproduction of red boarfish because these fish live too deep to be observed easily. It is known that the fish live in large groups, because many fish are caught in a single trawl haul. Red boarfish probably scatter their eggs in the open water, and the larvae probably drift in open water.

Red boarfish and people: Red boarfish are of no known importance to people.

Conservation status: Red boarfish are not threatened or endangered. ∎



Nelson, Joseph S. Fishes of the World. 3rd ed. New York: Wiley, 1994.

Web site:

"John Dory: Zeus faber Linnaeus, 1758." Australian Museum Fish Site. (accessed on October 13, 2004).

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Dories: Zeiformes

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