Labrus merula

Labrus merula is a species belonging to the family of the wrasses (Labridae) that inhabits the waters up to 50 meters and sandy bottoms or Posidonia oceanica meadows, mainly in the Mediterranean Sea, although it is also present in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, on the coasts of Portugal, Spain and Morocco.

The body of Labrus merula reaches 30-50 cm in length, so we are dealing with a species of considerable dimensions for what the Mediterranean Sea is used to. Its mouth is small and terminal, with thick lips and the upper jaw slightly exceeding the lower one. The jaws are equipped with strong teeth distributed in a single row. The dorsal fin has more than 10 spines followed by a region of soft rays that is longer than high. The anal fin, on the other hand, is formed by 3 spines followed by a region of soft rays. The caudal fin is slightly forked. Both the dorsal, anal and caudal fins have bright blue edges. The body of Labrus merula is olive-green or olive-brown, sometimes with bluish marbling, and the belly is light. Juveniles are green with a lighter belly and a band of small white spots running from the eyes to the tail.

Labrus merula is a solitary and rather shy species, which is most active during the day. In contrast, juveniles tend to be more sociable, and it is not uncommon to find them forming dense schools of specimens. It is common for Labrus merula to build nests with fragments of algae that they collect on the seabed. In these nests is where they spend the night sheltered and protected from possible predators.

The diet of this species is based on small animals that live among the algae, such as polychaetes, molluscs, crustaceans and echinoderms.

The sexual maturity of Labrus merula is reached at about 2 years of age, when they have lengths of about 15-20 cm. During the months of February to May is the reproductive season of the species, when they lay eggs among the rocks or in the seagrass meadows. The clutches are cared for by the males.