The Crested Morwong is easily identified by its distinctive black stripes running diagonally down the body, large thick lips and a prominent dorsal spine in front of the dorsal fin. This dorsal spine appears overly large in juveniles, however as the fish matures, these fins become shorter in proportion to the body.
The Crested Morwong is endemic to the tropical and warm temperate waters of Western Australia, from Shark Bay to the Recherché Archipelago. They are soft bottom dwellers inhabiting shallow, sheltered coastal and estuarine reefs rich with invertebrate growth. To feed they take mouthfuls of sand, filtering out small invertebrates and worms, then blow out unwanted debris through their gills. They occur mainly solitary, occasionally in pairs or in small aggregations and grow to a maximum length of 35 centimetres.
Other common names include Western Crested Morwong, Magpie Morwong
Occurrence at the Busselton Jetty
A resident population of Crested Morwongs lives beneath the jetty, and adults and juveniles can be seen on a daily basis. They are seen exhibiting a range of behaviours, such as feeding on the seafloor, being cleaned of parasites and other debris by the female western king wrasse, defending their territory and courtship. Observing them being cleaned is a fascinating process, where they extend their jaw, opening their mouth, raising their fins and spine and open up their gills. They appear to go into a trance and stand upright on their tail while the wrasse flits around ‘pecking’ at algae and parasites.
Image by: O. Rynvis