Shorefishes of the Eastern Pacific online information system

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Family: LABRIDAE, Wrasses, Hogfishes, Moon-Wrasses, Razorfishes, Sheepheads

All Families:   All Genera:   All Species:

mouth protrusible
thick prominent lips
teeth - canines
teeth on plates in throat
large smooth scales



Wrasses vary greatly in size (from a few cm to over 2 m), shape and color; body elongate to oblong, slightly to strongly compressed; mouth protrusible, opens at front, usually with prominent lips; rear of top jawbone not visible on the cheek; usually 1-2 pairs of well developed canine teeth at the front of the jaws, sometimes projecting forwards; rarely teeth on the roof of the mouth; well developed toothed grinding plates inside the throat; gill membranes fused under throat; a single continuous dorsal fin, VIII-XIV, not obviously notched between the spinous and soft portions (some Xyrichtys have a few isolated spines on the head at the front of the dorsal fin); usually III anal spines (rarely II); large smooth scales; lateral line continuous (straight, curved, kinked) or broken.

Most wrasses inhabit tropical and subtropical latitudes, but a significant number of species live in temperate areas. Wrasses are ecologically very diverse. They occur in habitats ranging from tidepools, to rocky or coral reefs, to weed- and seagrass beds, and open sand bottoms. They feed on a wide variety of animal life: zooplankton, fishes, polychaete worms, brittle stars, crabs and shrimps, parasites and mucus from the skins of other fishes, and coral tissues. Hard-shelled items, such as molluscs and sea urchins, are crushed with the pharyngeal teeth in the throat. Most labrids exhibit sex reversal: functional females change sex into functional males. Different life stages of the same species often differ greatly in color, with distinct juvenile, female + small male and large-male phases.

This large family contains ~ 71 genera and ~ 515 species, well over half of which occur in the Indo-Pacific region. Thirty-two shallow water species (3 Indo-Pacific species, 1 Pacific species, and the remainder endemics) from 8 genera (1 endemic to the eastern Pacific) have been recorded from our region.

Note: Recent genetic analyses have shown that parrotfishes actually belong, as a distinct subfamily, in the wrasse family (Labridae). However, in line with common usage, here we keep the two families separate.