Cheilinus undulatus

Cheilinus undulatus is a fish belonging to the large family of the wrasses (Labridae). Within the wrasses family, there are more than 70 different genera and more than 500 species. The name of this species comes from the Greek word 'cheilos', which refers to its thick, fleshy lips, and the Latin word 'undulatus', which refers to the veined pattern of its body coloration. The humphead maori wrasse inhabits the coral reefs of the Indian and Pacific Oceans at depths of between 5 and 60 meters. It is found from the coasts of East Africa (from South Africa to the Red Sea), in the Seychelles, Mauritius, Cocos, Maldives and Adaman Islands, in Indonesia, Australia, New Guinea, Micronesia and the Philippines and as far south as Japan.

The maximum total length of Cheilinus undulatus is 2.3 meters and they reach up to 190 kg in weight. It is undoubtedly the largest of all wrasses species. Its body is tall and long, with a straight dorsal profile of the head from the height of the eyes onwards, and after the eyes it becomes convex. Adult males develop a large protuberance in this area, which can even exceed the vertical of the eye itself, and which is evidently one of the most distinctive features that we will remember about this species. The lips and jaws are large and prominent, and the jaws have 2 large canines in an anterior position on each jaw. The dorsal fin is continuous, and consists of 9 spines and 10 soft rays. The anal fin has 3 spines and 8 soft rays. Both the dorsal and anal fins of adult specimens end in a very pointed shape, which reaches the back of the caudal fin. The pelvic fins are small, and the pectoral fins have 2 unbranched and 10 branched rays. Finally, the caudal fin is rounded. The lateral line of this species is interrupted at the posterior region of the base of the dorsal fin.

The body of Cheilinus undulatus is olive green, with large scales behind the pectoral fins, which have dark vertical stripes. The head of adult specimens is blue-green with irregular wavy lines and two black lines extending posteriorly from the eyes. Juveniles are lighter in color.

Despite being a somewhat shy species in front of divers, Cheilinus undulatus will not hesitate to be near anchored boats. It is a species that due to its large size, has been subject to heavy fishing, and is in serious danger of disappearing. It is estimated that there may be one adult specimen of Cheilinus undulatus per square kilometer of reef.

The diet of Cheilinus undulatus is based mainly on fish and hard-shelled benthic invertebrates, such as certain molluscs and crustaceans.

Specimens reach sexual maturity at 5-6 years of age, at which time they develop female reproductive organs. At about 9 years of age, the female organs atrophy and the male reproductive organs develop, making it a protogynous hermaphrodite species. The reproduction of the species is groupal, with external fertilization, and releasing the eggs into the currents.


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