Wrasses

Wrasses (Labridae) are a family of marine fishes classified within the order of Perciformes. They are distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical seas of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans.

This family of fish is one of the most diversified among fishes in terms of body shapes, colors, and sizes. Despite this, there are some characteristic features, at least of a large part of the species. The mouth of Wrasses is protractile and slightly outward facing, with jaws equipped with well separated teeth. The lateral line can be continuous or interrupted. The colouring patterns are very diverse, as mentioned above, with many color patterns even within the same species. In terms of size, the length of Wrasses generally does not exceed 15 cm, with species that can reach 2.3 metres in length at one end, as is the case with Chelinus undulates. At the opposite end, we find species such as Minilabrus striatus, whose size barely exceeds 4 cm in length.

The dorsal fin of Wrasses is continuous and unique, covering almost the entire individual. It has 8-21 spines (usually less than 15) and 6-21 radius. In the anal fin we find 2-6 spines (most species usually have 3), followed by 7-18 soft spokes.

Many species of Wrasses are well known for maintaining symbiotic relationships with other fish. These are placed in 'cleaning stations' within the reef, where the other species know they can go to have their mouths and cavities cleaned from encoparasites. Many of the Wrasses species are proterogenic hermaphrodites, that is, when the male of the group is lost, the most dominant female of the group changes sex to become the dominant male of the group. This change of sex usually entails a change in the coloration of the individuals. Another curious feature of Wrasses is that many species, once the night has come, bury themselves in the sand to go unnoticed. The food of Wrasses is composed predominantly of small Crustaceans, Molluscs and Annelids. There are 519 species grouped into 71 genera.


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