Slippery dick

December 13, 2011, 8:24 am
Content Cover Image

Slippery dick in initial phase. Photo by Florent Charpin. reefguide.org

The slippery dick (scientific name: Halichoeres bivittatus) is a member of the wrasse family (Family Labridae) that lives on coral reefs in the Western Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.


caption Slippery dick. Source: ''Reef Fish Identification'', New World Publications © 1994



caption Juvenile slippery dick. Source: Florent Charpin/www..reefguide.org


Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
Phylum:--- Chordata
Class:------ Osteichthyes (Bony Fishes)
Order:-------- Perciformes
Family:-------- Labridae (Wrasses)
Species:----------Halichoeres bivittatus (Bloch, 1791)

Physical Description

H.bivittatus ranges from 14 to 35 centimeters in length. They have elongated bodies and canine teeth that extend out of their mouths. The dominant color markings are two dark stripes, one running from snout through eye to caudal base and the other, less pronounced, on lower side of body; a bicolored spot at edge of gill cover within upper dark stripe; large adult males green on back, shading to light greenish yellow on sides, the two stripes usually purplish; irregular light red bands on head and on caudal fin.

Individuals of this species can vary greatly in coloration depending on habitat, phase, breeding season, and age.  In the terminal phase they are usually geen whereas the coloration in the initial phase can vary greatly.  Juveniles are usually white with a dark spot at the base of their pectoral fin.


This taxon can be found within the Western Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina, USA to Brazil, as well as in Bermuda and thewithin the Caribbean Basin.


H.bivittatus can be found in the upper epipelagic zone on coral reefs at depths from one to 15 meters

Feeding Behavior

This fish commonly forages in sandy bottom areas surrounding coral heads.  They primarily feed on invertebrates such as brittle stars, crabs, shrimps and gastropods. 


They often hunt during the day in small groups looking for prey. Individuals may change their coloration to match their background; for example, they will lighten while foraging over sand but darken while foraging over algae


They are protogynous hermaphrodites so they can change sex from female to male. Terminal males do not defend harems, but instead defend temporary spawning locations along the outsides of shallow reefs. This species tends to spawn in the middle of the day during presence of penetrating sunlight. Typcally, they spawn in pairs, but a male may spawn with many females throughout the day. The larvae are pelagic so they live in the water column until they are large enough to settle on the reef.

Conservation Status

H.bivittatus is not considered to be a species at risk.

References and Further Reading



McGinley, M. (2011). Slippery dick. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/156046


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