The kelp reefs of Carnac Island harbor some of Western Australia’s lesser known temperate wrasses

By on Apr 13, 2012

A male Ophthalmolepis lineata. Photo by flickr user Brian Mayes.

Australia is well known for producing some of the industry’s best psychedelic corals and drool worthy reef fish. The land down under is a wealth of untapped bounty and what we’ve been able to bring to the trade is nothing compared to what Australia still has to offer. The whole lot of unreachable goodies hail mainly from the Western Australian region, where places such as the Rowley Shoals are located. Carnac Island is another such locale, which feature mainly kelp and algae dominated reefs, inhabited by some of Australia’s finest wrasses – in genera you’ve probably never even heard of. 

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The video above provides a sampling of some of the lesser known wrasse species. Apart from the very cool, gothic looking Talma Butterflyfish (Chelmonops curiosus), several Ophthalmolepis lineata of different life stages can be seen in the video. Of particular interest is the male seen around the one minute mark. Ophthalmolepis lineata, commonly known as the Australian Maori-wrasse, is a large species that grows to 40 cm, and are often caught on the hook while fishing. The males are gorgeously adorned with horizontal layers of red, white and black coloring, and the head is predominantly black with electric blue scrawling.

O. lineata are often caught on line and hook, as seen here. Picture from Fishwrecked.

Another notable species that wasn’t featured in the video but also hails from Carnac Island is Dotalabrus alleni. Unlike O. lineata, D. alleni is a small species that grows to a maximum size of 11 cm. The males of Dotalabrus alleni are greenish overall and are adorned with blue flecks and dashes. Males also possess a yellow streak toward the second half of the body that runs from the posterior dorsal area to the caudal peduncle. A few black blotches run vertically downward. Females are less colorful and have evenly spaced vertical black blotches that fade to spots at even intervals throughout the body. Unfortunately, due to the hard to reach location and limited geographical range, D. alleni is never seen in the trade.

Dotalabrus alleni, Male. Photo by G. edgar.

Another two unique and oddly shaped wrasses that are commonly found in Southern to Western Australia are Siphonognathus caninis and Eupetrichthys angustipes. S. caninis is a very curious looking labrid that is shaped more like a pipefish than anything else. The small fish grows to a length of 12 cm and is very colorful, especially during courtship. E. angustipes is a slender, elongated wrasse that is shaped like an eel. Also a small species, E. angustipes would make an interesting addition to reef tanks if not for their unavailability.

Siphonognathus caninis. Photo by R. Stuart Smith

Eupetrichthys angustipes, Male. Photo by Nick Catran.

Western Australia is home to a multitude of other miniature aquarium suitable wrasses. The very colorful and rare dottyback looking wrasse known as Pictilabrus brauni is one exceptional beauty that is endemic to only a small strip of reef on the south coast of West Australia. This results in zero information and pictures available online but if you have access to Rudie Kuiter’s ultimate book on wrasses, you’ll find two amazing pictures of it inside. These unorthodox wrasses are just some of many hidden secrets dwelling in the reefs of Wester Australia. Other critters that lurk there are just waiting to be discovered. Now what say we ditch the vegemite and start diving the West Coast, mate.

 

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