November 23, 2020
AZ Animals Staff
Distinctive Feature: Large, thick lips and protractile mouths
Water Type: Salt
Optimum pH Level: 5 - 7
Habitat: Coral reefs and rocky shores
Predators: Sharks, Lionfish, Barracuda
Favorite Food: Fish
Common Name: Wrasse
Average Clutch Size: 1000
Slogan: There are more than 500 different species!
Wrasse Physical Characteristics:Colour: Brown, Grey, Yellow, Blue, Black, White, Green, Orange
Skin Type: Scales
Lifespan: 3 - 10 years
Length: 11cm - 250cm (4in - 98in)
The wrasse is an animal family that is most well-known for the bright colors for is made up of brightly colored fishes.
The family boasts of diversity and comprises over 600 fish species that are spread across 81 genera. These fishes are further divided into nine groups or tribes. They can be about 5 cm to 2 meters and have long and slender bodies, smooth scales, thick lips and anal fins.
These fishes are known to turn aggressive when new fishes are introduced to their environment. These are solitary creatures and are often found existing alone and hardly occur in groups.
Some famous wrasse species include leopard, humphead, melanurus, six line, and saltwater.
6 Incredible Wrasse Facts!
Here are some interesting facts about these fishes:
- Diurnal: These fishes are diurnal in nature, which means that they are most active during the day and sleep through most of the night.
- Carnivorous: These fishes are carnivorous, and their diet primarily consists of meat and other non-vegetarian things.
- Strong teeth: These fishes have small mouths but very strong teeth.
- Very large family: These fishes collectively combine to form a very large family that comprises of about 600 different fishes that are sub-divided into 9 groups or tribes.
- Aggressive: These fishes are sometimes very aggressive, especially when new fishes are introduced into their environment.
- Solitary social life: These fishes usually live alone and do not exhibit group behaviors at all. They are alone most of the time and hardly come together with other members of the family.
Wrasse Classification and Scientific Name
Wrasse goes by the scientific name Labridae, which comes from the Latin word labrum, which means lip or edge. The name is likely due to their thick lips since their teeth come out when they need them.
These fishes belong to the kingdom Animalia and phylum Chordata. As a family (Labridae) beneath the Chordata phylum, there are over 500 species. They come from the class Actinopterygii and order Labriformes.
The wrasse fishes form a large family that comprises over 500 different species. These different fishes are then distributed into 81 different genera and are subdivided into nine different groups or tribes. Some of the famous wrasse species include:
- Humphead wrasse: This incredibly large wrasse is endangered, residing within the coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific Ocean. They are served as a luxury dish in some parts of Asia.
- Six line wrasse: With bright fuchsia and blue stripes, this wrasse can be found along the coast of Fiji. They are considered to be jumpers, so anyone that keeps it as a pet will need to keep a cover on their home aquarium.
- Melanurus wrasse: The melanurus wrasse prefers to make its home along the rocky shoreline of the western Pacific. It is one of the smaller fish in the wrasse species, only measuring 12 cm at its largest size. The bright red-orange stripes pop against the blue-green background of their body.
- Leopard wrasse: The leopard wrasse can become stressed rather easily, so it can be hard to keep at an aquarium at home. Sometimes, they will hide away for over a week to feel safe again.
- Saltwater wrasse: Easily integrated into saltwater aquariums, the most difficult aspect of owning the saltwater wrasse is finding the right tankmates that it will not combat.
Wrasse has longish bodies that are usually about 5 cm to 2 meters long, varying greatly with the many different species in the family. They exist in a variety of colors like yellow, orange, white, blue, green, purple, and grey, combined with stripes and bars against solid colors. These markings are made with smooth scales.
Along with their long dorsal and anal fins, wrasse fish have a pointed snout and are especially distinguished by thick lips. After all, their scientific name comes from the Latin word for “mouth” or “lip,” making it quite descriptive of this feature.
The teeth of wrasse are protractile, meaning that they come out as part of a jaw that projects forward when they need to catch food. There are two rather large teeth that many species have at the front of their jaws.
The largest member of the wrasse family can grow up to about 7.5 meters and can weigh up to 420 pounds. The humphead wrasse, for example, can grow a lot in size and is known to live the most among all the other marine fish types.
Wrasse Distribution, Population, and Habitat
Wrasses usually exist in the tropical as well as the subtropical waters and can be found in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean. They inhabit the temperate waters and can also be found in Norway.
The population status of these fishes is not known. However, they do exist in large numbers as these fishes are a family of about 600 fishes. Each marine fish is then put into different genera and groups or tribes.
The species conservation status varies, considering that many species are not considered endangered. However, the humphead has many threats as part of the fish trades, leading it to become endangered. Once known as the “king of the coral reef,” this species has lived up to 30 years before, but the Coral Triangle has made it a highly coveted and expensive fish to buy for food.
To encourage fishers to seek out humphead wrasse less frequently, the World Wildlife Foundation works with other organizations to buyback the fish. Current data shows that almost 900 humphead wrasse have been returned in the last ten years.
Wrasse Predators and Prey
The Wrasse fishes face threats from the lionfish, dogfish, and large sharks, but the predators that they face vary with the particular species. The biggest threat that the larger wrasse face is over-fishing, which means that humans are their largest predator.
As far as food, the species will determine the kinds of food that it eats. While the humphead wrasse seeks out crustaceans, smaller variations of wrasse will look for small fish to eat. They sometimes even attach themselves to a host that allows them to consume parasites in a symbiotic relationship with other sea life. Eels, groupers, and snappers are just a few of the fish that allow wrasse companions to clean them.
Wrasse Reproduction and Lifespan
These fish mate through a process called broadcast reproduction. While eggs are released by the female into the water at its unfertilized state, the male releases sperm into the water as well. The sperm released seeks out the eggs, fertilizing them to grow into wrasse. Broadcast spawning is rather common among bony fish, as well as many other sea animals.
These species must be cared for by the parents to survive, since many predators may seek them out. Though the incubation period is a mere 24 hours, the lifespan of some wrasse species can usually be about 30 years old.
Interestingly, any bluehead wrasse is a female when it first hatches. Some of the fish will turn into males as a way to preserve the population of the species.
Wrasse in Fishing and Cooking
Catching some of the endangered species of wrasse is discouraged, but they are still served as a delicacy in many areas. For that reason, many websites encourage consumers to only buy or fish for what they need for a particular meal, seeking out the larger fish for more meat.View all 31 animals that start with W
Wrasse FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Where are wrasse found?
Wrasse is found in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean. They are also found in Norway.
What do wrasse eat?
These fishes eat small fishes, dead tissue, and parasites.
Why are wrasse endangered?
Wrasse is by and large not extinct. However, some marine fish that fall in this family are known to be endangered.
Can you eat wrasse?
Yes, wrasse is edible. However, they do not make a popular dish and therefore, their demand is low.
What are some of the popular wrasse species?
Some of the popular wrasse species include humphead wrasse, leopard wrasse, six line wrasse, melanurus, and saltwater wrasse.
Are wrasse aggressive?
These fishes can turn aggressive if left with other unknown fishes in their environment.
Are wrasse reef safe?
Most of these fishes are reef safe. Some of them are even found in a coral reef or rock reef.
- Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrasse
- Biological Diversity, Available here: https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/fish/humphead_wrasse/index.html
- British Sea Fishing, Available here: https://britishseafishing.co.uk/wrasse/
- , Available here: https://dwazoo.com/animal/napoleon-wrasse/
- , Available here: https://www.thesprucepets.com/saltwater-wrasse-facts-2925924
- World Wildlife Federation, Available here: https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/humphead-wrasse
- Soft Schools, Available here: https://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/wrasse_facts/1938/
- , Available here: https://oceana.org/marine-life/ocean-fishes/bluehead-wrasse
- , Available here: https://www.sea-angling-ireland.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=43394
- , Available here: https://forums.deeperblue.com/threads/eating-wrasse.101276/
- Merriam-Webster, Available here: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Labridae
- Brittanica, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/animal/wrasse