Hayden Schilling
Conjoint Associate Lecturer
Field of Research: 
Fisheries biology, Coastal ecology, Pelagic ecosystems
Contact details:
Level 4 East
Biological Sciences South (E26)

UNSW, Kensington 2052

Ecology of tailor in eastern Australia

Tailor is a popular fish for both commercial and recreational fishers in eastern Australia. Recently there have been stories of a decline in numbers but there has been little scientific work to learn about these fish or to see if they are actually in decline. Working closely with NSW and QLD Fisheries, my research studies the ecology of tailor in eastern Australia and will contribute to a management plan to ensure there are fish to catch and eat in the future. Four key aspects of my work are:

1. Diet - What do tailor eat?

  • Identifying the stomach contents of tailor is showing a large and varied diet dominated by small baitfish. Some fish contain up to 15 anchovies!

  • As tailor grow up they move from eating crustaceans to eating fish.

2. Reproduction - Where and when do tailor reproduce?

  • Using monthly samples of fish from the entire NSW Coast, I can identify where and when the tailor are reproducing.
  • A late summer reproductive event has been shown in northern NSW for the first time.

3. Growth - How fast do tailor grow and how old are the fish being caught?

  • Just like a tree, the (otoliths) ear-bones of fish grow rings which can be counted to age fish. For example the ear-bone below is from a 4 year old fish (annual rings numbered).

4. Movement - How mixed is the tailor stock? For example; do tailor swim up and down the entire coast as part of a large group or do they stay in smaller groups?

  • Using 40 years of citizen science tag recapture data, tailor have been shown to migrate annually, favouring water 21.5°C.

  • Using natural elemental tags within the otoliths (ear bones) revealed that juveniles use both estuarine and coastal habitats.

If you would like to contribute to this research and learn more about the fish you catch, donations of tailor frames can be made through the NSW Research Angler Program. For more information please see; http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/recreational/resources/fish-tagging/researchangler 


 Ear bone of a 65cm tailor showing 4 annual rings


Schilling H.T., Reis-Santos P., Hughes, J. M., Smith, J. A., Everett, J. D., Stewart, J., Gillanders B.M., Suthers I.M. (2018) Evaluating estuarine nursery use and juvenile life history patterns of Pomatomus saltatrix in eastern Australia. Marine Ecology Progress Series 598: 187 – 199 doi: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12495

Brodie S., Litherland L., Stewart J., Schilling H.T., Pepperell J.G., Suthers I.M. (2018) Citizen science records describe the distribution and migratory behaviour of a piscivorous predator, Pomatomus saltatrix. ICES Journal of Marine Science doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsy057

Lawson C., Suthers I.M., Smith J.A., Schilling H.T., Stewart J., Hughes J.M., Brodie S. (2018) The importance of accounting for ontogenetic diet variation in consumption rate estimates: a marine example. Scientific Reports 8: 10725 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-28479-7

Schilling, H. T., Hughes, J. M., Smith, J. A., Everett, J. D., Stewart, J., & Suthers, I. M. (2017) Latitudinal and ontogenetic variation in the diet of a pelagic mesopredator (Pomatomus saltatrix), assessed with a classification tree analysis. Marine Biology, 164(4), 75 doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-017-3105-1