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They live primarily on reefs, but some species are strongly associated with vegetation or open sand bottoms. Sex reversal is the norm, and most species have two or three sex-related colour or body forms. Labrids are the second-most speciose Australian fish family. In Australian waters, 175 species of labrids in 44 genera are known (Gomon, 1994; Randall et al., 1997; Hoese et al., in press) of which about 80 species in 31 genera are temperate. Most species swim primarily using the pectoral fins (labriform swimming), and specialised dentition is a characteristic of the family. All Australian labrids, so far as is known, spawn small (0.6-1.1 mm diameter) pelagic eggs. Development is direct. The only apparent specialisations to larval life are the preopercular spines of one tropical taxon, the elongate or early-forming dorsal-fin elements of a very few taxa, and the narrow eyes and choroid tissue of some others.

Meristic characters of labrid genera of temperate Australia

  Dorsal Anal Pectoral Pelvic Caudal Vertebrae
Cheilinus IX-X,8-11 III,8-9 12 I,5 7+6 9+14=23
Cirrhilabrus XI-XII,8-10 III,8-10 14-16 I,5 13 9+16=25
Oxycheilinus IX,10 III,8 12 I,5 7+6 9+14=23
Pteragogus IX-XI,9-12 III,8-10 12-15 I,5 7+7 9+16=25
Achoerodus XI, 10-11 III, 10-11 16-18 I, 5 7+7 28
Bodianus XII,9-11 III,11-13 15-18 I,5 (7-8)+7 11+17=28
Choerodon XII-XIII,7-8 III,9-10 15-19 I,5 7+7 (10-11)+(16-17)=27
Anampses IX,11-13 III,10-13 13-14 I,5 7+7 9+16=25
Austrolabrus IX, 11 III, 10 13 I, 5 7+7 9+16=25
Cheilio IX,12-13 III,11-12 12 I,5 7+7 9+16=25
Coris IX,12 III,12 13-15 I,5 (7-8)+7 (9-10)+(15-16)=25
Dotalabrus IX, 11 III, 10 12 I,5 14  
Eupetrichthys IX, 12 III, 10 13 I, 5 7+7 9+10=25
Halichoeres IX-X,11-14 III,10-13 12-15 I,5 7+7 (9-10)+(15-16)=25
Hemigymnus IX,11 III,11 14 I,5 13 10+15=25
Hologymnosus IX,12 III,12 13 I,5 14 9+16=25
Leptojulis IX,11-12 III,10-12 12-13 I,5 14 9+ 16=25
Macropharyngodon IX,11-12 III,11-13 12-13 I,5 7+7 9+16=25
Notolabrus IX,11 III, 10 14 I, 5 14 9+16=25
Ophthalmolepis IX, 12-13 III, 13 13 I, 5 14 26
Pictilabrus IX, 11 III, 10 13 I, 5 14 9+16=25
Pseudocoris IX,12 III,12-13 15 I,5 - -
Pseudolabrus IX,10-11 III,10-11 12-14 I,5 8+7 9+16=25
Pseudojuloides IX,11-12 III,11-12 12-13 I,5 14 (9-10)+(15-16)=25
Stethojulis IX,10-12 III,10-12 12-15 I,5 7+7 10-15=25
Suezichthys IX,11 III,10 13-14 I,5 (7-8)+7 9+16=25
Thalassoma VIII,12-14 III,10-12 14-17 I,5 7+7 (9-10)+(15-16)=25
Labroides IX,10-12 III,9-11 13 I,5 14 10+15=25
Cymolutes VIII-X,12-15 III,11-13 11-13 I,5 14 9+17=26
Novaculichthys IX,12-14 III,12-14 12-13 I,5 14 9+16=25
Xyrichthys IX,12 III,12-14 12-13 I,5 7+7 9+16=25

Note: under caudal rays, a format of X+X indicates principal rays, whereas a single number indicates branched rays plus 2.

Main characters of labrid larvae

  • 23-28 myomeres
  • Body laterally compressed with a deep caudal peduncle
  • Gut is initially straight but coils (usually by flexion), and is slightly rugose
  • Dorsal-fin count VIII-XIII, 7-15
  • Principal caudal rays 13-15 (7+6, 7+7 or 8+7)
  • Small mouth
  • Eyes round, squarish, or ovoid
  • No head spination
  • Very little pigment
  • Most species lack scales prior to settlement
  • Larger larvae are distinguished by the long-based dorsal fin and counts of all fins

References to labrid larvae

Relatively few developmental series of labrid larvae have been published, Spartá, (1956); Fahay, (1983); Richards and Leis, (1984); Kojima, (1988); Richards, (1990); Watson, (1996); Leis and Rennis, (2000); Leis and Hay (2004), and references therein.

Families with similar larvae

  • Scaridae - 25 myomeres; usually have a series of melanophores on the ventral edge of the tail; narrow or roundish eyes; slightly rugose gut coils late in development; 7+6 caudal-fin rays; D IX, 10.
  • Pseudochromidae subfamilies Pseudochrominae and Pseudoplesiopinae - 26-29 myomeres; mouth of moderate size; small preopercular spines; round eyes; variable pigment; gut seldom rugose; generally 9+8 caudal-fin rays; D I-III, 20-79.
  • Callanthiidae - 24 myomeres; moderate to strong head spination; a coiled, compact gut; round eyes; variable pigment; moderate to large mouth; 9+8 caudal-fin rays; D X-XI, 9-12.
  • Serranidae subfamily Grammistinae - 24-28 myomeres; moderate to strong head spination; an early-forming dorsal-fin spine; large mouth; round eyes; 9+8 caudal-fin rays; DVI-VIII, 11-25.
  • Cirrhitidae – 26 myomeres; no head spination; non-rugose gut that coils late, if at all; distinctive, heavy pigmentation; a barbel on the lower jaw is often present; round eyes; 8+7 caudal-fin rays; DX, 11-17; AIII, 6-7.
  • Odacidae - 31-54 myomeres; moderate mouth; prominent angle of lower jaw; round eyes; long non-rugose gut that coils late, if at all; 11-14 caudal-fin rays; at least 14 spines in the dorsal fin.
  • Myctophidae – elongate; narrow to round eyes; rugose gut; at least 30 myomeres; lack spines in the fins; 10+9 caudal-fin rays.

Note: families in bold text are dealt with in Neira et al., 1998.


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