Common in the Solitary Islands Marine Park. Widespread Tropical Indo - Pacific, Central Pacific to East Africa and Red Sea. In Australia recorded from central Western Australia, Queensland south to northern New South Wales, and including Lord Howe Island.
Frequents rocky reef. Adults found in clear lagoon and seaward reefs, common in clear shallow water. Juveniles found under ledges and in caves, sometimes in fairly deep water. Depth to at least 100 m.
Benthic feeder on small invertebrates, crustaceans, juveniles observed cleaning parasites from other fish. Terminal phase pictured top photograph, small juvenile with characteristic white spots, bottom. Grows to 20 cm.
R. Stuart-Smith, G. Edgar, A. Green, I. Shaw, Tropical Marine Fishes of Australia. Reed New Holland Publishers, 2015. p.288.
FishBase. Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2018. World Wide Web electronic publication. http://fishbase.ca/summary/Bodianus-axillaris.html. Accessed 28/04/18.