Creole wrasse

December 13, 2011, 6:43 am
Content Cover Image

Creole wrasse. Photo by Florent Charpin. reefguide.org

The creole wrasse (scientific name: Clepticus parrae) is a member of the wrasse family (Family Labridae) that lives on coral reefs in the Western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Because their food habits differ from most other wrasses (creole wrasse eat plankton,   whereas most other wrasses are carnivores), their morphology and behavior tends to resemble other plantonivores (i.e., blue chromis) than it does other wrasses.


caption Creole wrasse. Source: Florent Charpin/www.reefguide.org


Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
Phylum:--- Chordata
Class:------ Osteichthyes (Bony Fishes)
Order:-------- Perciformes
Family:-------- Labridae (Wrasses)
Species:----------Clepticus parrae (Bloch and Schneider, 1801)

Physical Description

Creole wrasse vary in length from 10 to 30 centimeters in length. Their bodies are thicker than the characteristic cigar-shaped bodies of other wrasses. In the terminal adult phase, their bodies are mostly purple, with yellow on their lower rear, and a dark snout.  In the intiial phase they are mostly purple/blue in coloration. Juveniles are also purple and manifest a series of spots along their backs.


They are found in the Western Atlantic Ocean from southern Florida, USA to northern South America as well as in Bermuda, the Bahamas, and througout the Caribbean Sea.


C. parrae lives or coral reefs at depths ranging from one to 40 meters. This species is most commonly found swimming in the water column above the coral reef.

Feeding Behavior

Creole wrasse are planktonivores that feed on zooplankton. They swim, often in large groups numbering in the hundreds, in the water column above the reef.  Like most other pelagic planktonivores they have protrusible mouths that they use to pluck plankton out of the water. Their good eyesight allows them to locate their tiny prey in the water.


Like most wrasses, creole wrasses swim using their pectoral fins, so they appear as if they are flying through the water.  Creole wrasse tend to form large schools which probably protects them from predators while they are feedng far from the safety of the reef. Although they do not need to be fast in order to capture plankton, they are capable of swimming rapidly, an attribute which allows them to escape predators by fleeing or by quickly diving to the safety of the reef.  


Creole wrasse are protogynous hermaphrodites, so that they can change sex from female to male. Intiial phase individuals are females and females change sex to males when they reach 15 to 18 centimeters in length and assume terminal phase coloration. Spawing occurs in the mid afternoon and may take place any time of the year.  After the male courts a female, they spawn in the water column.  After the eggs hatch the larvae enter the pealagic stage where they reamain until the larvae are large enogh to settle on the reef.  Juveniles form small groups above coral heads. 


Creole wrasse may form schools with other pelagic planktonivores such as the blue chromis.

Creole wrasse commonly visit cleaning stations, where they are cleaned by Pederson's cleaner shrimp and cleaner fishes such as the hogfish and other wrasses.

Conservation Status

The creole wrasse is not considered to be a species at risk.

References and Further Reading



McGinley, M. (2011). Creole wrasse. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/151527


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