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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Harlequin Sweetlips Plectorhinchus chaetodontoides

Small groups of harlequin sweetlips can often be seen gathered at dusk around large coral heads, waiting to be cleared of parasites by a cleaner wrasse. Harlequin sweetlips are deep-bodied fish patterned with small, brownish black spots that break up their outline as they swim among the ever-changing shadows on the reef. Their name comes from their thickened lips, which they use to dig out invertebrates from sand.

The Harlequin Sweetlips' Juvenile Costume

Juvenile harlequin sweetlips have a different patterning than the adults. They have brown bodies and white spots edged in black. By swimming in a weaving, undulating fashion, the smallest juvenile harlequin sweetlips mimic a toxic flatworm with a similar coloration and so escape predation. Their color may also warn that they themselves are unpalatable to predators.

Harlequin Sweetlipszoom image
  • Order Perciformes
  • Length Up to 28 in (72 cm)
  • Weight Up to 15 lb (7 kg)
  • Depth 3–100 ft (1–30 m)
  • Distribution Tropical waters of Indian Ocean and western Pacific
Harlequin Sweetlips habitat mapzoom image