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.
- 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