MAORI WRASSE, THE GREAT 8, SOUTHERN GREAT BARRIER REEF
Maori Wrasse, known scientifically as Cheilinus undulatus, is one of the iconic marine species that make up “The Great 8” of the Southern Great Barrier Reef, a list similar to the African Big Five, but for underwater wildlife. This fish is a must-see for divers and snorkelers visiting this part of the Great Barrier Reef, which is off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
The Maori Wrasse is a charismatic and ecologically significant species of the Southern Great Barrier Reef, playing a vital role in the health and allure of this unique ecosystem. Their presence enhances the diving experience, adding to the rich biodiversity that the Great Barrier Reef is renowned for.
Size and Appearance: The Maori Wrasse is among the largest reef-dwelling fish species, reaching lengths of up to 2 meters and weights of around 180 kilograms. They are known for their thick, fleshy lips and a prominent bump on their forehead. Adult males exhibit vibrant colors, with a mixture of green, blue, and purple hues on their bodies, and intricate, maze-like patterns on their heads.
Behaviour and Diet: These wrasses are known for their curious and friendly nature, often approaching divers. They are carnivorous, feeding primarily on mollusks, fish, and crustaceans. Their strong teeth allow them to crack open hard-shelled prey.
Habitat and Range: The Maori Wrasse is found on coral reefs across the Indo-Pacific region, but they are particularly iconic on the Southern Great Barrier Reef. They prefer clear, warm waters and are usually seen around coral outcrops and reef slopes.
Reproduction and Lifespan: Interestingly, Maori Wrasses are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning they are born female and can change to male later in life. This change is usually triggered by social factors, such as the absence of a dominant male. They have a long lifespan, with some individuals living for over 30 years.
Conservation Status: The Maori Wrasse is listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List. They face threats from overfishing and illegal poaching, as they are highly valued in the live reef fish trade. Their slow growth and late maturity also make them vulnerable to overexploitation.
Cultural Significance: In many Pacific cultures, the Maori Wrasse holds a place of respect and is often featured in folklore and art. In Australia, efforts to protect this species are not only driven by ecological concerns but also by a desire to preserve an important part of the region’s natural heritage.