Herring Cale belong to the family Odacidae. They are very closely related to the wrasse family, differing in internal bone structure where their teeth are partially fused into a beak. They are a long, cylindrical fish with an eel-like swimming style as they move through kelp beds. Females tend to be quite drab in appearance showing a mottled greenish to brown colour, whereas males are dark, with vivid blue stripes. Males display brightly coloured fins during courtship and for defense, but remain camouflaged amongst the algae when the fins are down. Juveniles of the species are variable in colour from green to brown to black and are usually secretive and well camouflaged in their weedy habitat. Herring Cale are a protogynous fish meaning the females of this species have the ability to change sex and become male depending on the social influences in a group of these fishes.
Herring Cale are endemic to Australia, occurring from the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, WA to Angourie Point, northern NSW. They may form large aggregations along high energy surf zones, from the intertidal to 30 metres deep, which are dominated by brown macroalgae species such as Ecklonia radiata, Phyllospora comosa and Lessonia corrugata. These three weed species form the basis of their herbivorous diet. Males of the species are territorial, tending to travel the same route to protect their home range of algae. The Herring Cale rows to a maximum length of 51 centimetres.
Occurrence at the Busselton Jetty
Sighting of a Herring Cale is a rare occurrence at the Busselton Jetty.
Image by: O. Rynvis