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April 21, 2018  |  Login

Humphead Wrasse
Cheilinus undulatus

What Are They Like?

The humphead wrasse, also known as the Napoleon fish, is one of the largest coral reef fishes. The humphead wrasse can be easily recognized by the prominent bulbous hump that develops on its forehead. These fish can grow up to 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) in length, and weigh up to 421 pounds (191 kilograms). Adults range in color from bright electric blue to more subdued shades of green, while juveniles are typically a pale, greenish color.  The humphead wrasse is naturally rare and has few natural predators.

Where Do They Live?

Humphead wrasses can be found sporadically throughout the Indo-Pacific region. They are commonly found along well-developed coral reefs, and tend to remain sedentary.

Did You Know?
Humphead wrasses develop thick, prominent lips as they get older.

How Are Babies Made?

The humphead wrasse is hermaphroditic; some females are known to change sex to males. Adults reach sexual maturity around five to seven years of age.

What Do They Eat?

The diet of the humphead wrasse consists of mollusks, small fish, sea urchins and crustaceans.

Did You Know?
Humphead wrasses can live more than 30 years in the wild.

What Do They Do?

Humphead wrasses are commonly found in male/female pairs or in small groupings. During the day, humphead wrasses can be found roaming the reefs, and at night they rest in reef caves and under coral ledges. Adults typically inhabit the outer reef slopes and drop-offs, and juveniles tend to reside in the thickets of living staghorn coral.

How Concerned Should We Be?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which keeps a "Red List" of species in danger worldwide, lists the humphead wrasse as "endangered." The biggest threat to the humphead wrasse is overfishing for the live fish export trade. This has caused the fish to become increasingly rare in certain areas. However, some countries have taken measures to help conserve the amount of fish left in the wild. For instance, Australia has prohibited the catch and possession of humphead wrasse. In China, permits are required for the sale and possession of the fish. Harm to natural coral reefs caused by human activity is also a growing concern for the sustainability of the humphead wrasse.

What's Being Done?

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) considers the humphead wrasse a "priority species" and is taking steps to protect and conserve it by promoting consumer awareness and publishing seafood guides to encourage consumers to only eat sustainable seafood. The WWF is also working with local governments and NGOs to improve monitoring and illegal trade of the humphead wrasse.


Humphead wrasse release at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

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