Variola louti

Variola louti is one of the 2 members of the genus Variola, which together with 75 additional genera make up the sea basses family (Serranidae) in which a total of 538 species are currently described. The distribution of this species includes the Indian and Pacific Oceans, from the east coast of Africa and the Red Sea to southern Japan, southern Australia and the Pitcairn Islands. It inhabits crystal clear waters at depths greater than 15 meters and less than 350 meters.

The body of Variola louti is elongated and can reach sizes of up to 100 cm and up to 12 kg in weight. It has a large face, with a large terminal mouth equipped with sharp canine teeth. The dorsal profile of the head is slightly convex. The preoperculum is rounded with finely serrated edges. The operculum has 3 flattened spines. The dorsal fin has 12 spines followed by 13-14 soft rays; the anal fin has 3 spines and 8 soft rays; the pectoral fins have between 16 and 19 rays; and the caudal fin is lunate in shape, with the upper and lower lobes quite elongated, and the middle rays much shorter. The dorsal and anal fins have pointed rear ends.

The general color of Variola louti is reddish and covered with blue spots. They have a reddish color on the upper body, which often turns orange to white on the lower body. They are marked with many small bluish or pinkish spots on the head, body and fins. The posterior margins of the fins are yellow. Juveniles appear to mimic fish of the family Mullidae.

Females of Variola louti reach sexual maturity at a standard length of 33 centimeters. Aggregations of numerous individuals have been recorded gathering to spawn off the coast of Sumatra during the breeding season, which occurs between December and February. It is believed that this species is a protogynous hermaphrodite, that is to say all specimens are born as females, and later in life change sex to become males.