Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
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

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.


Adreani M. S.Erisman B. E.Warner R. R.2004Courtship and spawning behaviour in the California sheephead, Semicossyphus pulcher (Pisces: Labridae).Environmental Biology of Fishes711319doi:10.1023/B:EBFI.0000043177.98895.F7

Allsop D. J.West S. A.2003Constant relative age and size at sex change for sequentially hermaphroditic fish.Journal of Evolutionary Biology16921929doi:10.1046/J.1420-9101.2003.00590.XPubmed Abstract

Alonzo S. H.Warner R. R.1999A trade-off generated by sexual conflict: Mediterranean wrasse males refuse present mates to increase future success.Behavioral Ecology10105111doi:10.1093/BEHECO/10.1.105

Andrew T. G.Buxton C. D.Hecht T.1996Aspects of the reproductive biology of the concha wrasse, Nelabrichthys ornatus, at Tristan da Cuncha.Environmental Biology of Fishes46139149doi:10.1007/BF00005215

Barrett N. S. (1995). Aspects of the biology and ecology of six temperate reef fishes (families: Labridae and Monacanthidae). PhD Thesis, University of Tasmania, Hobart.

Cailliet G. M., Love M., and Ebeling A.W. (1996). ‘Fishes: A Field Guide and Laboratory Manual on their Structure, Identification and Natural History.’ (Waveland Press: USA.)

Candi G.Castriota L.Andaloro F.Finoia M. G.Marino G.2004Reproductive cycle and sex inversion in razor fish, a protogynous labrid in the southern Mediterranean Sea.Journal of Fish Biology6414981513doi:10.1111/J.0022-1112.2004.0404.X

Charnov E. L.Skuladottir U.2000Dimensionless invariants for the optimal size (age) of sex change.Evolutionary Ecology Research210671071

Choat J. H.1982Fish feeding and the structure of benthic communities in temperate waters.Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics13423449

Clavijo I. E.Donaldson P. L.1994Spawning behaviour in the labrid, Halichoeres bivittatus, on artificial and natural substrates in Onslow Bay, North Carolina, with notes on early life history.Bulletin of Marine Science55383387

DeMartini E. E.Friedlander A. M.Holzwarth S. R.2005Size at sex change in protogynous labroids, prey body size distributions, and apex predator densities at NW Hawaiian atolls.Marine Ecology Progress Series207250271

Denny C. M.Schiel D. R.2002Reproductive biology and population structure of the banded wrasse, Notolabrus fucicola (Labridae) around Kaikoura, New Zealand.New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research36555563

Edgar G. J.Barrett N. S.1999Effects of the declaration of marine reserves on Tasmanian reef fishes, invertebrates and plants.Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology242107144

Ewing G. P.Welsford D. C.Jordan A. R.Buxton C.2003Validation of age and growth estimates using thin otolith sections from the purple wrasse, Notolabrus fucicola.Marine and Freshwater Research54985993doi:10.1071/MF02116

Fairclough D. (2004). The biology of four tuskfish species (Choerodon: Labridae) in Western Australia. PhD Thesis, Murdoch University, Perth.

Gillanders B. M.1995Reproductive biology of the protogynous hermaphrodite Achoerodus viridis (Labridae) from south-eastern Australia.Marine and Freshwater Research469991008doi:10.1071/MF9950999

Gladstone W.1987The courtship and spawning behaviours of Canthigaster valentini (Tetraodontidae).Environmental Biology of Fishes20255261

Gordoa A.Balbina M.Raventós N.2000Growth performance of four wrasse species on the north-western Mediterranean Coast.Fisheries Research454350

Hawkins J. P.Roberts C. M.2004Effects of fishing on sex-changing Caribbean parrotfishes.Biological Conservation115213226doi:10.1016/S0006-3207(03)00119-8

Henry G. W., and Lyle J. M. (Eds) (2003). The national recreational and indigenous fishing survey. FRDC Project No. 1999/158, Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra, Australia.

Jones G. P.1980Growth and reproduction in the protogynous hermaphrodite Pseudolabrus celidotus (Pisces: Labridae) in New Zealand.Copeia180660675doi:10.2307/1444442

Jones G. P.1981Spawning-site choice by female Pseudolabrus celidotus (Pisces: Labridae) and its influence on the mating system.Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology8129142doi:10.1007/BF00300825

Jones G. P. (1999). The Wrasses. In ‘Under Southern Seas: the Ecology of Australia’s Rocky Shores’. (Ed. N. Andrew.) pp. 180–187. (University of New South Wales Press: Sydney.)

Jones G. P.Thompson S. M.1980Social inhibition of maturation in females of the temperate wrasse Pseudolabrus celidotus and a comparison with the blennioid Tripterygion varium.Marine Biology (Berlin)59247256doi:10.1007/BF00404748

Kennelly S., and McVea T. (Eds) (2003). Status of fisheries resources 2001/2002. NSW Fisheries, Cronulla Fisheries Centre, Cronulla, Australia.

Kuiter R. H. (2000). ‘Coastal Fishes of South-Eastern Australia.’ (Gary Allen: Sydney.)

Kuwamura T.Tanaka N.Nakashima Y.Karino K.Sakai Y.2002Reversed sex-change in the protogynous reef fish Labroides dimidiatus.Ethology108443450doi:10.1046/J.1439-0310.2002.00791.X

Lehner P. N. (1996). ‘Handbook of Ethological Methods.’ 2nd edn. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.)

Lowry M.2003Age and growth of Cheilodactylus fuscus, a temperate rocky reef fish.New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research37159170

Martel G.Green J. M.1987Differential spawning success among territorial male cunners, Tautogolabrus adspersus (Labridae).Copeia1987643648

McBride R. S.Johnson M. R.2007Sexual development and reproductive seasonality of hogfish (Labridae: Lachnolaimus maximus), an hermaphroditic reef fish.Journal of Fish Biology7112701292doi:10.1111/J.1095-8649.2007.01580.X

McBride R. S.Richardson A. K.2007Evidence of size-selective fishing mortality from an age and growth study of hogfish (Labridae: Lachnolaimus maximus), a hermaphroditic reef fish.Bulletin of Marine Science80401417

McPherson G. R.1977Sex change in the wrasse Pseudolabrus gymnogenis (Labridae).Australian Zoologist19185200

Morton J. K. (2007). The ecology of three species of wrasse (Pisces: Labridae) on temperate rocky reefs of New South Wales, Australia. PhD Thesis, University of Newcastle, Newcastle. <>.

Morton J. K.Platell M. E.Gladstone W.2008Differences in feeding ecology among three co-occurring species of wrasse (Teleostei: Labridae) on rocky reefs of temperate Australia.Marine Biology (Berlin)154577592doi:10.1007/S00227-008-0951-X

Moyer J. T.Yogo Y.1982The lek-like mating system of Halichoeres melanochir (Pisces: Labridae) at Miyake-Jima, Japan.Zeitschrift fur Tierpsychologie60209226

Nardi K.Newman S. J.Moran M. J.Jones G. P.2006Vital demographic statistics and management of the baldchin groper (Choerodon rubescens) from the Houtman Abrolhos Islands.Marine and Freshwater Research57485496

Parenti P.Randall J. E.2000An annotated checklist of the species of the labroid fish families Labridae and Scaridae.Ichthyological Bulletin68197

Perry A. N.Grober M. S.2003A model for social control of sex change: interactions of behaviour, neuropeptides, glucocorticoids, and sex steroids.Hormones and Behavior433138
doi:10.1016/S0018-506X(02)00036-3Pubmed Abstract

Peterson C. W., and Warner R. R. (2002). The ecological context of reproductive behaviour. In ‘Coral Reef Fishes: Dynamics and Diversity in a Complex Ecosystem’. (Ed. P. F. Sale.) pp. 103–120. (Academic Press: Sydney.)

Platten J. R.Tibbetts I. R.Sheaves M. J.2002The influence of increased line-fishing mortality on the sex ratio and age of sex reversal of the venus tusk fish.Journal of Fish Biology60301318doi:10.1111/J.1095-8649.2002.TB00281.X

Pogonoski J. J., Pollard D. A., and Paxton J. R. (2002). ‘Conservation Overview and Action Plan for Australian Threatened and Potentially Threatened Marine and Estuarine Fishes.’ (Environment Australia: Canberra.)

Sadovy Y.Shapiro D. Y.1987Criteria for the diagnosis of hermaphroditism.Copeia1987136156doi:10.2307/1446046

Sakai Y.Kohda M.2001Spawning timing of the cleaner wrasse, Labroides dimidiatus, on a warm temperate rocky shore.Ichthylogcal Research482330doi:10.1007/S10228-001-8113-X

Sakai Y.Masanori K.Kuwamura T.2001Effect of the changing harem on timing of sex change in female cleaner fish Labroides dimidiatus.Animal Behaviour62251257doi:10.1006/ANBE.2001.1761

Shapiro D. Y.1987Differentiation and evolution of sex change in fishes.Bioscience37490497doi:10.2307/1310421

Steffe A. S., Murphy J. J., Chapman D. J., Tarlinton B. E., Gordon G. N. G., and Grinberg A. (1996). An assessment of the impact of offshore recreational fishing in New South Wales waters on the management of commercial fisheries. NSW Fisheries Research Institute, Cronulla, Australia.

Stewart J.Hughes J. M.2007Age validation and growth of three commercially important Hemiramphids in south-eastern Australia.Journal of Fish Biology706582doi:10.1111/J.1095-8649.2006.01256.X

Sydney Fish Market (2005). Monthly price report result. <>. Accessed on 03 May 2005. Not available to the public since 2005.

Treasurer J. W.1994The distribution, age and growth of wrasse (Labridae) in inshore waters of west Scotland.Journal of Fish Biology44905918doi:10.1111/J.1095-8649.1994.TB01263.X

Warner R. R.1995Large mating aggregations and daily long-distance spawning migrations in the bluehead wrasse, Thalassoma bifasciatum.Environmental Biology of Fishes44337345doi:10.1007/BF00008248

Warner R. R.Hoffman S. G.1980aLocal population size as a determinant of mating system and sexual composition in two tropical marine fishes (Thalassoma spp.).Evolution34508518doi:10.2307/2408220

Warner R. R.Hoffman S. G.1980bPopulation density and the economics of territorial defence in a coral reef fish.Ecology61772780doi:10.2307/1936747

Warner R. R., and Robertson D. R. (1978). ‘Sexual Patterns in the Labroid Fishes of the Western Caribbean, I: the Wrasses (Labridae).’ Number 254. (Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington.)

Warner R. R.Swearer S. E.1991Social control of sex change in the bluehead wrasse, Thalassoma bifasciatum (Pisces: Labridae).The Biological Bulletin181199204doi:10.2307/1542090

Wootton R. J. (1998). ‘Ecology of Teleost Fishes.’ 2nd edn. (Kluwer Academic Publishers: The Netherlands.)

Export Citation Cited By (9)