Symphodus tinca is a species of fish belonging to the family Labridae, found in the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea and the eastern Atlantic Ocean, from the coasts of northern Spain to Morocco. It inhabits the rocky bottoms or Posidonia oceanica meadows, up to depths of 50 meters, and it is the most abundant and largest species of wrasses present in the Mediterranean Sea.
The body of Symphodus tinca reaches 15-25 cm in length in female specimens, while males reach a maximum length of 25-35 cm. The body is elongated, strong with a relatively short snout and thick, fleshy lips. The profile of the head is slightly convex and the mouth is slightly protractile. The jaws have a single row of teeth. As for coloration, Symphodus tinca is characterized by a black spot halfway up the caudal peduncle and located at the end closest to the caudal fin itself. Other characteristics of the species are the absence of black spots at the base of the pectoral fins, as well as the presence of two dark bands on the rostrum, one on the anteroventral edge of the eye, just above the upper lip, and the second, which is narrower, located above the first, but without crossing the eye. Neither do they have any semilunar spot behind the eye, nor vermiculations on the cheeks, distinctive features of other species of the family of wrasses. There is a marked sexual dimorphism between females and breeding males. Females and younger males are grayish-brown to yellowish, with two dark brown longitudinal bands on the flanks, which may not always be visible. The belly of these specimens is usually silvery. In contrast, males in the breeding season are yellowish green to lime green, with three longitudinal rows of red and blue dots, with the fins adorned with a blue webbing except for the pectoral fins.
Regarding the feeding of Symphodus tinca, it feeds on small echinoderms, molluscs or crustaceans that it captures by ingesting sand from the bottom, and once its prey is isolated, it discards the sand.
During the months of May to June is when Symphodus tinca reproduces. For this, the males, unlike other Mediterranean Sea wrasses, will not build nests, but will invite the females to lay their eggs among the algae present in the male's territory. The male will fertilize and from this moment on will take care of the clutch. A very widespread trait among the species of wrasses and that applies to Symphodus tinca is that it is a hermaphrodite species with sex change. All specimens are born as females, becoming sexually mature at about 2 years of age. In the third year of life, they will develop male reproductive organs, with the female ones atrophying, and will then become males. The life expectancy of the species is 14-15 years.
Small specimens of Symphodus tinca can be confused with Symphodus cinereus, although the latter species is not as colorful, is smaller and has a black spot at the beginning of the dorsal fin that differentiates it from Symphodus tinca.Photos: