Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean online information system

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Species: Halichoeres cyanocephalus, Yellowcheek Wrasse

All Families:   All Genera:   All Species:

IP - yellow above, blue center, white below
TP: like IP, darker + dark stripe eye to nape
juv - like IP + ocellus base C & rear base D

Halichoeres cyanocephalus (Bloch, 1791)

Yellowcheek Wrasse

Elongate, compressed; mouth protrusible, opens at front, thick lips; rear of top jawbone not visible on cheek; toothed grinding plates in throat; enlarged canine teeth at front of both jaws (1 pair above, 2 pairs below), a canine at rear of top jaws; gill rakers 16-19; gill membranes fused under throat; dorsal fin IX, 10, not obviously notched between spiny and soft parts; anal fin III, 12; lateral line unbroken, but abruptly bent down under rear of dorsal fin, its tubes branched, except those on tail base, with 26-29 pored scales.

Juvenile: like IP but with a black centered ocellus on base of tail fin and another on rear base of dorsal fin. Initial phase: upper ½ of head an along top of back bright yellow; lower head white; upper side dark blue, that color extending to the tail, white below that; tail fin dark blue broadly edged above, below and at the rear with bright yellow; dorsal fin yellow, with a black stripe along its center. Terminal phase: upper 2/3 of head and along top of back yellow; a blue stripe up the center of the snout and an oblique short dark red stripe from eye up towards nape; a broad dark blue stripe from above pectoral base to base of tail fin; tail fin mainly yellow, with a blue blotch at fin base; dorsal fin black, with a white outer margin.

Reaches 30 cm.

Rubble and sand bottoms within reefs.

Depth range: 7-100 m, usually below 20 m.

Bermuda to the S Caribbean.

Note: Its sister species in Brazil is Halichoeres dimidiatus.

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  • Marine
  • Marine Only
  • Inshore
  • Inshore Only
Water Column Position
  • Bottom
  • Bottom only
  • Rocks
  • Sand & gravel
  • Soft bottom (mud/sand/gravel/beach/estuary/mangrove/seagrass)
  • Corals
  • Reef (rock/coral/oyster)
  • Reef and soft bottom
  • Reef associated (reef + edges-water column & soft bottom)
FishBase Habitat
  • Reef Associated
Feeding Group
  • Carnivore
  • Data
  • Ectoparasite cleaner
  • Data
  • Bony fishes
  • Ectoparasites
  • Mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs)
Egg Type
  • Data
  • Pelagic
  • Pelagic larva
Global Endemism
  • All species
  • Greater Caribbean endemic
  • West Atlantic Endemic
Regional Endemism
  • Continent
  • Continent + Island (s)
  • Continental primarily
  • GC endemic
  • Island (s)
  • All species
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Equatorial (0-10N, Costa Rica / Venezuela)
  • Subtropical (23-35N, Florida / Carolinas / Bermuda)
  • Tropical (10-23N, Nicaragua / Cuba)
IUCN Red List
  • Least concern
  • Listed
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 30
Depth Range Min
  • 7
Depth Range Max
  • 100