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Wrasse facts for kids

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Thalassoma lunare 1.jpg
Moon wrasse, Thalassoma lunare, a typical wrasse
Scientific classification

Cuvier, 1816

See text.

Cleaning station
Cleaner wrasse working on a dragon wrasse on a coral reef in Hawaii

The wrasses are a family, the Labridae, of marine fish, many of which are brightly coloured. The family is large and diverse, with over 600 species in 82 genera.

They are typically small fish, mostly less than 20 centimetres (7.9 in) long, although the largest, the Humphead wrasse, can measure up to 2.5 metres (8.2 ft).

Feeding methods

They are efficient carnivores, feeding on a wide range of small invertebrates. Many smaller wrasses follow the feeding trails of larger fish, picking up invertebrates disturbed by their passing.

Wrasses can put their jaws forwards, usually with separate jaw teeth that jut outwards.

Many species can be recognized by their thick lips. The inside of these lips is curiously folded, which gave rise the German name of Lippfische. The dorsal fin has 8–21 spines and 6–21 soft rays, usually running most of the length of the back.

Wrasse are sexually dimorphic. Many species are capable of changing sex. Juveniles are a mix of males and females (known as Initial Phase or IP individuals) but the largest adults become territory-holding (Terminal Phase or TP) males.

The word "wrasse" comes via Cornish from the Welsh word gwrach meaning an old woman or hag.

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