information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

John dory (Zeus faber)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.
Only coastal and marine records shown



Body tall and laterally compressed like an oval plate. Between 30-70 cm in length. Eight to ten strong dorsal fin rays. Golden brown with dappled markings with a striking brown spot in middle of body. Large, very protractile mouth containing small conical teeth in jaws. Golden green-grey or silvery bronze.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

All British and Irish coasts.

Global distribution



Midwater or near seabed at moderate depth, down to 400 m.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Tall, laterally compressed body like a dinner-plate.
  • Up to 70 cm in length.
  • Golden brown colour with dappled markings and a striking brown spot in the middle of the body.
  • Belly silver or white.
  • Eight to ten strong dorsal fin rays extending into long, elegant filaments.
  • Sharp spiny scales run round edge of body.

Additional information

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Listed by

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Further information sources

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  1. Dipper, F., 2001. British sea fishes (2nd edn). Teddington: Underwater World Publications Ltd.

  2. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  3. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]

  4. Muus, B.J. & Dahlstrom, P., 1974. Collins guide to the sea fishes of Britain and North-Western Europe. Wm Collins Sons & Co. Ltd: London.

  5. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017

  6. Picton, B.E. & Costello, M.J., 1998. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats, fauna and flora of Britain and Ireland. [CD-ROM] Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College, Dublin.

  7. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).


This review can be cited as:

Bleach, J. 2008. Zeus faber John dory. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 15-08-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 17/04/2008