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 Text and photos copyright John P. Hoover

past fishes of the month


Thalassoma trilobatum


terminal male

Thalassoma trilobatum (Lacepede, 1801)
     These fast-moving wrasses inhabit shallow reefs, often in the surge zone, where they feed mostly on crabs and molluscs. Terminal males have bright ladderlike blue-green markings on a reddish body. The brown and green initial phase adults (both sexes) are smaller and drab by comparison. At night these fish sometimes sleep in tide pools just above the water line where they can be discovered by flashlight. Juveniles occur in tide pools. The species name means "three lobes." At least ten Hawaiian names have been applied to this wrasse, some to designate different growth stages. To about 12 in. This is a common species throughout the Indo-Pacific. Photos: Hanauma Bay, O`ahu. 3-5 ft.

initial phase (male or female)

      Christmas Wrasses spawn during daytime high tides for much of the year. Drab initial phase fish of both sexes aggregate at specific sites, often a large coral head or other landmark, to spawn in groups. Terminal males hold spawning territories scattered more widely along the top of the reef and mate with individual females. To advertise themselves these males intensify their colors, often becoming more reddish and turning their pectoral fins blue or blue-black. They swim back and forth in an excited manner high off the bottom, pausing now and again to flutter their blue pectorals in an exaggerated and conspicuous display. The artificial reef at Kahe Point Beach Park, O`ahu, is a good place to see this. One of the "risers" for the outfall pipe was the spawning site where these photos were taken..

initial phase fish aggregating to spawn - Kahe Pt., O`ahu, 10 ft.
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  Text and photos copyright John P. Hoover