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Wrasse; Western King

Wrasse; Western King

Coris auricularis

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.  The western king wrasse undergo three different colour stages.  Small juveniles have black and white lateral stripes down the length of the body; large juveniles and females are a pinkish-white in colouration with a dark red stripe extending through the eye to the base of the tail; and males are bright pink with fine iridescent blue and yellow lines across the body and fins, a white lower jaw and a broad white bar behind the pectoral fin.  This species grows to a maximum length of 40 centimetres.

Juveniles remain inconspicuously hidden in reefs, where adults form small aggregations on the edge of the reef close to sand and seagrass in clear coastal to offshore waters to depths of 45 metres.  Juveniles and females set up cleaning stations where they pick parasites of larger fish in the area.  Endemic to Western Australia, the western king wrasse ranges from Coral Bay to the Recherche Archipelago, WA.

Other common names include:  Blushing wrasse

 

Occurrence at the Busselton Jetty: 

Female and juvenile western king wrasse are commonly observed from the underwater observatory.  There have only been several occasions when a male has been visible, and due to his vibrant colouration and personality he presents as a different species, most likely this is one of the most beautiful fish to be view from the observatory.  The males are noticeably larger than the females, and spend the majority of their time displaying their fins and swimming erratically.  Females and juveniles of varying sizes make up the harem and throughout the day are observed cleaning parasites from willing fish such as crested morwongs.

Image by: Busselton Jetty Inc.