Labridae – Wrasses

Wrasses are a family in the superclass of the bony fish. Labridae live worldwide in the seas of subtropical, tropical and temperate climates and always close to the coast. In addition, the family of the Wrasses cotains more than 500 species in 65 genera.

In the Canaries they are very frequent, so there is no dive without them.


The most striking feature, in many species of the Wrasses, is a pronounced sexual dimorphism. This means that male and female fish have different colourings. In general, Labridae usually have a eye-catching colour.

To the external form one can say that they are mostly, laterally compressed. Moreover, they have a long-stretched body and larger species are predominantly high-backed. Their body is covered with large, round scales (cycloid scales).

Their mouths are almost always covered with thick lips, which can be stretched forward.

Development and Reproduction

As a juvenile, most of the Labridae are not yet sexually mature and often differ in their colour from sexually mature fellows.Thus they are not driven out of their territory by other males. Most of the Wrasses are sexually mature as females. Only in some species a few individuals will become sexually mature as primary males directly. These nevertheless have the colouration of a female.

When Labridae are sexually mature, they live in small wandering groups or in fixed areas. In the majority of cases, more females than males are present.

Brood care is rare in the Labridae. They are mostly free-breeding and according to this do not process brood care. Some species spawn every day at dusk while others do this only at coming low tide, so that the fertilized eggs are carried with the current into the open sea.

In the reproduction, primary males are also included, which because of their colouration are not recognized by the secondary males and thus also have a chance of successful reproduction.

When the secondary male of a group dies, the strongest female transforms into a male within a very short time.

Both the eggs and the larvae of the wrasse are initially pelagic. It is only after the Metamorphosis to the juvenile fish that they are looking for ground-like regions.

Interesting facts

Species in the family of Wrasses can move their eyes independently of each other.

Labridae swim with simultaneous strokes of the pelvic fins. Apart from the case of escape, the tail fin serves only for control of direction.

Species of Wrasses on the Canaries

Sources and Interesting Links