There are over 400 species worldwide within the wrasse family, Labridae, roughly half of which are found in Australia. Size, shape and behavioural patterns vary greatly between species, however one common characteristic of this family is that they are protogynous hermaphrodites. That is all juveniles are born female, they consequently join a female harem that is dominated by a single male and if the behavioural cues of the male are missing the largest female will ultimately change sex. Similarly to other wrasse species, the senator wrasse has pattern and colouration that changes between genders and as they mature. Small juveniles are reddish-brown with a series of black spots on the upper sides and feint bars on the lower sides, changing to a light red-brown to greenish with pale spots in larger juveniles and females. Males and females have similar shaped bodies, however male senator wrasse have a green colouration with violet, pink, yellow and blue stripes along the sides and fins, with characteristic scribbles across the face. The senator wrasse grow to a maximum length of 30 cenitmetres.
The senator wrasse is endemic to temperate marine Australia waters. An inquisitive species, prefer weedy habitat on coastal reefs and in estuaries to depths of 30 metres. Their range is from the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, WA to Byron Bay, NSW and around Tasmania. The senator wrasse are carnivorous and hunt for a variety of benthic invertebrates, including molluscs, amphipods and crustaceans. Breeding occurs in the spring months, males become territorial and swim with fins on display over seagrass and seaweed meadows.
Occurrence at the Busselton Jetty:
The senator wrasse is commonly observed from the underwater observatory. In comparison to other wrasse species, it is the brightly coloured male that is most prevalent in these waters. Inquisitive fish, they often spend large amounts of time in front of the windows. They tend to inhabit the waters from the littoral zone (approximately 5 metres above the seafloor) to the seafloor.