Larval Fishes from Carrie Bow Cay, Belize - National Museum of Natural History - Division of FishesLarval Fishes Home

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Larval Fish: Labroidei

The suborder Labroidei includes the wrasses (Labridae) and parrot fishes (Scaridae). They are among the most abundant and conspicuous coral-reef fishes, and are characterized by their small mouths and strong teeth. The two families are closely related, and the parrot fishes can be thought of as specialized wrasses in which the teeth are fused into plates. Larvae of several species are commonly collected at Carrie Bow Cay. Scarid larvae are characterized by a series of melanophores along the base of the anal fin and another one just behind the anus. They also have characteristic series of small erythrophores above the anal fin and along the lateral midline. Labrid larvae are more variable.

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Halichoeres, USNM 353881

Halichoeres sp. (Labridae), 11 mm SL, USNM 353881. Several species of Halichoeres occur in the waters around Carrie Bow Cay; we have not yet identified the larvae to the species level.

Halichoeres, USNM 353951

Halichoeres sp. (Labridae), 12 mm SL, USNM 353951. This species has only the posterior black spot on the dorsal and anal fins; it also has more erythrophores along the dorsal and anal fin bases. Note the copepod attached to the fish's throat.

Thalassoma bifasciatum, USNM 358968

Thalassoma bifasciatum (Labridae), 12 mm SL, USNM 358968. This is the only species of Thalassoma in the Caribbean. It has one large black spot at the anterior end of the dorsal fin and a series of small black dots along the distal edges of the dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. There are no erythrophores behind the head.

Xyrichtys, USNM 353969

Xyrichtys sp. (Labridae), 14 mm SL, USNM 353969. Xyrichtys larvae have a somewhat elliptical eye and are totally devoid of melanophores; preserved specimens are completely unpigmented. Fresh specimens have extensive red pigment on the head and anterior body. They also have a patch of pigment at the posterior end of the caudal peduncle, which can be either red or yellow. In this specimen, the caudal pigment is red.

Xyrichtys, USNM 353141

Xyrichtys sp. (Labridae), 12 mm SL, USNM 353141. This specimen resembles the previous one, but the caudal-peduncle pigment is yellow instead of red. There is also less pigment over the gut. We have not yet determined whether these pigment differences are simply individual or ontogenetic variation, or whether the two forms represent different species. Three species of Xyrichtys occur in the area, but their fin-ray and vertebral counts are the same, so we cannot determine which species our larvae represent.

Doratonotus megalepis, USNM 353880

Doratonotus megalepis (Labridae), 7.5 mm SL, USNM 353880. This is a small species with distinctively low fin-ray and vertebral counts, which lives in seagrass beds around the island. The larvae are characterized by the broad reddish bar on the posterior part of the body. Additional red pigment is present behind the head and ventrally beneath the throat and the gut. The only melanophores lie dorsal to the posterior part of the gut.

Doratonotus megalepis, USNM 353543

Doratonotus megalepis (Labridae), 7.5 mm SL, USNM 353543. This specimen is beginning its transformation from larva to juvenile. The reddish bar is still visible on the posterior part of the body, but the adult pigmentation pattern is developing on the head.

Sparisoma, USNM 353884

Sparisoma sp. (Scaridae), 10 mm SL, USNM 353884. In addition to the melanophores along the anal-fin base, above the anus, and at the base of the pectoral fin, this larva has several series of small erythrophores: on the proximal anal-fin rays, above the anal-fin base, on the lateral midline, on the caudal fin, on the ventral midline below the throat and gut, and at the tip of the jaws. Note that the lateral erythrophores are confined to the posterior end of the body. The generic identity of this larva was determined through rearing. The species of Sparisoma show little variation in meristic characters, and we are unable to identify the larvae beyond the generic level.

Sparisoma, USNM 353296

Sparisoma sp. (Scaridae), 10 mm SL, USNM 353296. This larva resembles the preceding one in most characters, but the midlateral erythrophores extend the entire length of the body.

Sparisoma, USNM 353878

Cryptotomus roseus (Scaridae), 9 mm SL, USNM 353878. Larvae of this species resemble those of Sparisoma but lack the melanophore at the pectoral-fin base. The red pigment on the caudal fin is more intense and extensive. The identification is based on reared specimens.

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