Humphead Maori Wrasse, Cheilinus undulatus Rüppell 1835

Other Names: Blue-tooth Groper, Double-headed Maori Wrasse, Double-headed Parrot-fish, Giant Maori Wrasse, Giant Wrasse, Hump-headed Maori Wrasse, Hump-headed Wrasse, Maori Wrasse, Napoleon Maori-wrasse, Napoleon Wrasse

A Humphead Maori Wrasse, Cheilinus undulatus, on Norman Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Source: Andrew J. Green / Reef life Survey. License: CC by Attribution


This enormous wrasse is the largest species in the family Labridae. Adults can be recognised by their huge size, prominent hump on the forehead and thick rubbery lips.

Juveniles have a pair of dark wavy lines extending from behind the eye, an elongate dark marking on the body scales and a yellow margin to the caudal fin.

Although widespread on coral reefs in the Indo-west-central Pacific, Humphead Maori Wrasse are uncommon throughout their range. They are a highly valued and luxury food fish and are actively sought for the live reef fish trade in many parts of their range. The species is very susceptible to fishing pressure, and as a result, it is CITES-listed and is considered Endangered by the IUCN. 

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Society for the Conservation of Reef Fish Aggregations

IUCN Cheilinus undulatus

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Cheilinus undulatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Dec 2017,

Humphead Maori Wrasse, Cheilinus undulatus Rüppell 1835

More Info


Widespread in the tropical Indo-Pacific, from the Red Sea and east Africa, to the central Pacific.

In Australian waters, Humphead Maori Wrasse inhabit offshore reefs from north-western to north eastern Australia, including the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea; depth range 2-100 m.


Meristic features.
Dorsal-fin spines/rays: IX, 10
Anal-fin spines/rays: III, 8

Adults develop a prominent bulbous hump on the forehead and thick lips.


Juveniles are pale greenish to greyish with an elongate dark mark on each scale, two dark wavy lines extending from the rear of the eye and a yellow margin to the caudal fin.


Carnivore - feeds mostly on crustaceans, molluscs, fishes and echinoderms.


A long-lived protogynous hermaphrodite that changes sex from female to male during its life cycle. Individuals mature at about 6 years of age, and some females become males at about 9 years of age. 

Individuals form small to medium-sized spawning aggregations, usually on outer reefs. Humphead Maori Wrasse can live for up to 30 years.


Although historically fished commercially in northern Australia, Humphead Maori Wrasse have been protected under State legislation in Western Australia since 1998, and in Queensland since 2003.

This highly prized food fish has been heavily exploited for the live reef fish trade through its core range in southeastern Asia (Sadovy et al. 2003).


  • EPBC Act 1999 : Not listed
  • IUCN Red List : Endangered
  • This highly prized food fish has been heavily-exploited for the live reef fish trade througout SE Asia.
  • Etymology

    The species name undulatus is from Latin, meaning "wavy" or "waved".

    Species Citation

    Cheilinus undulatus Rüppell, 1835, Fische des Rothen Meeres: 20. Type locality: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Red Sea.


    Dianne J. Bray

    Humphead Maori Wrasse, Cheilinus undulatus Rüppell 1835


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    Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37384038

    Biology:Changes sex from female to male

    Conservation:IUCN Endangered; CITES listed

    Depth:2-100 m

    Fishing:Fished commercially

    Habitat:Coral reefs

    Max Size:230 cm TL; 190 kg

    Species Image Gallery

    Species Maps

    CAAB distribution map