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Interesting Facts about Cuckoo Wrasse

[Phylum: Chordata] [Class: Actinopterygii (bony-fish)] [Order: Labriformes] [Family: Labridae]

Labrus mixtus is one of the few wrasses that thrives best in cold water. Hence, it's fair to say the cuckoo wrasse is one of the most colourful marine fish in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.

This segment contains fun facts and information about the cuckoo wrasse, including where to find them, what they eat, and how they reproduce.

Habitat and Distribution of Cuckoo Wrasses

Even though this ray-finned fish species is native to many of the United Kingdom dive sites, you can also find them in:

They tend to live in the weedy algae zones of hard, rocky ecosystems.

Like most wrasse types, they're one of the easiest vertebrate fish species to identify. You see them darting around reef formations, usually seeking shelter inside the crevices of large boulders and behind branching corals.

They also inhabit the steep reef slopes of the eastern Atlantic Ocean at depths between forty (40) and eighty (80) metres (130 to 260 feet).

Cuckoo Wrasse Characteristics and Behaviour

Despite being an elongated slender fish with a pointed head, the cuckoo wrasse fish displays a remarkable array of colourful markings on their bodies and fins.

For example:

The body colouring of females is red, orange, and rose pink, with three black and white patches located behind the dorsal fin. Whereas, you'll see electric blue markings on the head and back of the males.

In spite of their sexual dimorphism, it is rare for the cuckoo wrasse (Labrus mixtus) to grow more than thirty five (35) centimetres in length (12 inches).

Most of the Labridae species that inhabit the cooler waters of the eastern Atlantic, especially around the coastlines of the United Kingdom, have large scales on their body. Typical examples of this gregarious fish species include:

Fun Fact: There is no shortage of funny fish names used to describe certain unique features of oceanic creatures and organisms. But, the name cuckoo wrasse comes from the blue markings displayed by the males that resemble "bluebell flowers" or the "Cuckoo flower" - as translated in the Southwestern Brittonic language (e.g. Cornish).

What Do Cuckoo Wrasse Eat?

The majority of wrasse fish species have extended, powerful teeth and jaws. As a consequence of that, they scour the bottom of the seabed hunting for their favourite prey - especially any marine crustaceans that may be hiding inside rocky outcrops and sandy substrates.

The carnivorous cuckoo wrasse has a small mouth with multiple folds of fleshy lips. The single row of canine-like teeth is sharp enough to crush the outer shells of most aquatic animals, including:

Note: Another section contains more facts and information about the parrot fish species, a common sighting that is closely related to wrasses with similar characteristics and feeding habits.

How Do Cuckoo Wrasse Reproduce?

Being typical protogynous hermaphrodites means they start their life as a female. But, after about seven months of growth, they can change gender to become a male when needed for the long term survival of the species (e.g. to replace a single dominant male if he dies).

The spawning season for cuckoo wrasse (L. mixtus) begins in May and runs through to the end of July. This is a busy time for the males as they initiate the complex nest-building behaviour.

Here's the thing:

After choosing a shallow burrow in the gravel, or stacking seaweed to build a nest, the males conduct an elaborate courtship ritual to attract a female cuckoo wrasse into their lair.

A female can lay up to one thousand sticky eggs for fertilisation by a male. Following that, he guards the fertilised eggs from predators until they start to hatch.

When they hatch, the larvae feed on microscopic zooplankton that drift in the water column before they embark on a process known as metamorphosis (i.e. physical changes to the body).

Interesting Fact: Juvenile cuckoo wrasse tend to develop and grow at a rapid pace during the first few years of life. Plus, the males tend to develop much faster than the females.

Threats and Predators

The average lifespan for the cuckoo wrasse is about seventeen (17) years. By and large, they are a non-migratory species that often become a source of food fish and eaten by some populations around the world (excluding Great Britain).

Dogfish, lionfish, and large sharks are the most common predators of wrasse fish. However, the biggest threat to the species is overfishing, excluding the "catch and release" practices, and fish farming industries, especially in Norway. It is also quite common to see them kept as pets in public aquariums.

Important: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is a comprehensive source of information about the global conservation status of animals, fungi, and plants. The IUCN currently lists the cuckoo wrasse (Labrus mixtus) as being of Least Concern (LC).

Related Information and Help Guides

Note: The short video [1:51 seconds] presented by "Scubaverse" contains some additional facts about cuckoo wrasse (Labrus mixtus).

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