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Napoleon Wrasse | Maldives Marine Life
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Maldives Marine Life

The Napoleon Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) is a marine fish that is mainly found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean living on the slopes of the coral reefs.  The napoleon wrasse is also known as the Humphead Wrasse or the Maori Wrasse and many people simply refer to it as the Napoleonfish.

The Napoleon Wrasse is the largest living member of the family Labridae, with males reaching lengths of 2 meters while the female Napoleon Wrasse rarely exceed 1 meter.


Napoleon Wrasse

Napoleon Wrasse Habitat

Napoleon wrasse are found most commonly around coral reefs like the ones in the Maldives.  They can also be found on channel slopes and lagoon reefs as deep as 100 meters.

The young napoleon wrasse tend to inhabit areas were there are dense branching corals and bushy sea grasses.  As they increase in size, they cover a more limited range, yet they move to vaster habitats, including the edges of reefs and channels.

Napoleon Wrasse Appearance

The napoleon wrasse is distinguished by having thick and fleshy lips and a hump on top of the head just above the eyes; hence the name Humphead.  This hump tends to grow more as the fish ages.

Male napoleon wrasse come in a variety of colors, from a bright and electric blue to green to purple.  Females and younger specimens tend to be more red-orange or white.


Close Up of Napoleon Wrasse Face

Napoleon Wrasse Diet

The napoleon wrasse is well-known for being an extremely opportunistic predator.  Its prey includes crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles) and mollusks such as echinoderms.  The Napoleon Wrasse actively selects branching hard and soft corals in order to find its food.

Napoleon Wrasse Behavior towards Scuba Divers

The napoleon wrasse is of absolutely no threat to the scuba divers.  This fish can be seen mostly in the day time when they swim around the edges of the coral reef and remain very active.  During the night time however they tend to retire to their caves or large reef structures and rest.

Napoleon Wrasse Reproduction

The napoleon wrasse becomes sexually mature at the age of 5 to 7 years.  The females tend to live longer on average, about some 30 years, while the males only last about 25 years.  They are fish that live long but have a very slow breeding rate.

The curious thing about these types of fish is that they are categorized as prodigious hermaphrodites, which means that some female members of their population can become males as late as the age of 9.  The factors that control the sex change of the fish are not yet known though.

Threats to Napoleon Wrasse

The napoleon wrasse has been red listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. There are a number of threats that affect the napoleon wrasse.  For example, spear fishing with scuba gear is one of the top threats; this usually happens at night time and on places where ecotourism is not practiced.   The Maldives for example have issued a ban on the species export in 1995 which helps protect them.  Yet in many parts of the world the species is rapidly disappearing.

Their habitat loss and degradation can also be a prominent factor that affects the Humphead fish as well as destructive fishing techniques that may include dynamite. Yet this technique is rarely used since a pair of its lips can go up to a market value of 400 dollars.