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Advances in the aquatic sciences

Comparison of the life histories of three co-occurring wrasses (Teleostei: Labridae) in coastal waters of south-eastern Australia

Jason K. Morton A B D , William Gladstone B , Julian M. Hughes C and John Stewart C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Science and Mathematics, Avondale College, PO Box 19, Cooranbong NSW 2265, Australia.

B School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle (Ourimbah Campus), PO Box 127, Ourimbah NSW 2258, Australia.

C New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre of Excellence, PO Box 21, Cronulla NSW 2230, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 59(7) 560-574
Submitted: 14 November 2007  Accepted: 26 April 2008   Published: 24 July 2008


Labrids are abundant on temperate rocky reefs yet their life histories are poorly known. Three co-occurring Australian labrids (Ophthalmolepis lineolatus, Notolabrus gymnogenis and Pictilabrus laticlavius) exhibited protogynous hermaphroditism typical of labrids. Juveniles reached sexual maturity at 184 mm total length (TL) (2.1 years) in O. lineolatus, 177 mm TL (1.8 years) in N. gymnogenis and <95 mm TL (<0.9 years) in P. laticlavius. Individuals were sexually active initial phase females until changing to a terminal phase male at 295 mm TL (5.2 years) in O. lineolatus, 273 mm TL (4.5 years) in N. gymnogenis and 138 mm TL (2.0 years) in P. laticlavius. The occurrence of males only at greater lengths and older ages suggests that O. lineolatus and N. gymnogenis are monandrous, whereas P. laticlavius appears to be diandrous. Reproduction was asynchronous among species with reproductive activity peaking in January–March for O. lineolatus, April–October for N. gymnogenis and October–December for P. laticlavius. Sectioned otoliths revealed that O. lineolatus and N. gymnogenis grew rapidly to 300 mm TL (6 years) and P. laticlavius to 180 mm TL (3 years). Longevity was at least 13.8, 9.6 and 4.8 years respectively. These life history data will aid management of these frequently harvested species.

Additional keywords: ageing, growth, hermaphrodite, labrid, otolith, protogyny, reproduction, temperate fish.


We are grateful to all divers for assisting with the filming of labrid behaviour, in particular D. Powter, R. Ramos, M. R. Shokri, V. Owen, K. Cribb, M. Kennedy, S. Gray, G. Campbell, L. Greive, J. Alvarez, G. Courtney and M. Jacewicz. Thanks extend to B. Hay and M. Saunders for providing commercially-caught fish and B. Neuschulz, S. Mors and S. Lindfield for providing fish and for dive assistance. Thanks also to I. Potter, S. Shepherd and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This research was supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) scholarship to J.K.M. and research funding provided from the University of Newcastle, Avondale College, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and the New South Wales Recreational Saltwater Fishing Trust. All collection was done in compliance with requirements of the University of Newcastle’s Animal Care and Ethics Committee.


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