Little Rainbow Wrasse, Dotalabrus alleni Russell 1988

Other Names: Allen's Polly, Allen's Wrasse

A male Little Rainbow Wrasse, Dotalabrus alleni. Source: Graham Edgar / Reef Life Survey. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial


A small variably coloured wrasse. Juveniles and females (initial phase) are greenish-yellow to dark green with five irregular black bars on the posterior sides, blue markings around the eye and a black spot or ocellus at the rear of the dorsal- and anal-fin bases. Males are reddish-yellow, gold or dark green with four black blotches in a broad yellow streak on the upper rear sides, torquoise markings radiating from the eyes and pale pelvic fins.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Dotalabrus alleni in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Jun 2024,

Little Rainbow Wrasse, Dotalabrus alleni Russell 1988

More Info


Endemic to south Western Australia, from the Recherche Archipelago to the Houtman Abrolhos islands. Mostly inhabits shallow rocky reefs at depths to 15 m, especially in offshore waters.


Dorsal fin IX, ll (rarely IX, l0); Anal fin III,10 (rarely III, ll); Caudal fin 5 + 2 + 12 + 2+5 (5-6 [rarely 3] + 2 + 12 + 5-5 [rarely 4]); Pectoral fin ii, 10; Pelvic fin 1,5; Gill rakers (first arch)18 (15-19).  Lateral line scales 25 (25-26); scale rows above lateral line 3; scale rows below lateral line 9 (8-9); predorsal scales 4 (4-6); cheek scale rows behind eye 1; cheek scale rows below eye 2 (1-2).


A small species: males reaching 8.5 cm SL (males 56.6-84.5 mm SL); females to 8.1 cm SL.


The species is sexually dichromatic. Initial phase (juveniles and females) greenish-yellow to dark green with 5 irregular black bars on posterior sides; blue markings radiating from eyes; a black spot on the rear of the dorsal- and anal-fin bases; clear pelvic fins. Terminal phase (males) reddish-yellow, gold or dark green, with 4 black diamond-shaped markings interspersed with yellow on the back before the tail; a pearly band along the sides below the body midline; caudal fin with 5-6 narrow reddish bars; pelvic fins pale yellowish.


Thought to be fairly generalised carnivores with well-developed canines in the jaws and robust pharyngeal teeth. The anterior canines are forwardly curved, the anterior teeth in the upper and lower jaws are enlarged, recurved canines.


A protogynous hermaphrodite - changes sex from female to male during the life cycle.


Of no interest to fisheries.


Like most wrasses, the Little Rainbow Wrasse is territorial or has a home range. It is active during the day and seeks shelter at night by burying in the sand.

Similar Species

Differs from Castelnau's Wrasse, Dotalabrus aurantiacus, only other species in the genus, in terminal phase (male) coloration, and in having clear pelvic fins and a moderately short dorsal fin spine (vs greyish pelvic fins and a moderately long first dorsal-fin spine). Although both species are found in Western Australia, D. alleni mainly inhabits rocky reefs, whereas D. aurantiacus usually occurs in seagrass beds.


The species is named for Dr. Gerald R. AlIen who collected the holotype and several paratypes, and drew the author's attention to this new species.

Species Citation

Dotalabrus alleni Russell 1988, Rec. Aust. Mus. Suppl. 9: 10, Figs. 2,12-13,15-18,23; Pl. 1(c-d). Type locality: off Carnac Island, Cockburn Sound, 36°16'S, 115°40'E, Western Australia, depth 8 m.


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Little Rainbow Wrasse, Dotalabrus alleni Russell 1988


Choat, J.H., Pollard, D., Russell, B. & Sadovy, Y.J. 2010. Dotalabrus alleni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T154841A4647878. Downloaded on 18 October 2018.

Edgar, G.J. 2008. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Sydney : Reed New Holland 2nd edn, 624 pp.

Gomon, M.F. &. Russell, B.C. 1994. Family Labridae. pp. 675-699 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs

Hoschke, A., Whisson, G. & Moore, G.I. 2019. Complete list of fishes from Rottnest Island. pp. 150-161 in Whisson, G. & Hoschke, A. (eds). The Rottnest Island fish book. 2nd ed. Perth, Western Australia : Aqua Research and Monitoring Services.

Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Biodiversity of shallow reef fish assemblages in Western Australia using a rapid censusing technique. Records of the Western Australian Museum 20: 247-270.

Hutchins, J.B. 2005. Checklist of marine fishes of Recherche Archipelago and adjacent mainland waters. pp. 425-449 in Wells, F.E., Walker, D.I. & Kendrick, G.A. (eds). Proceedings of the Twelfth International Marine Biological Workshop: The Marine Flora and Fauna of Esperance, Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum. 

Kuiter, R.H. 2002. Fairy & Rainbow Wrasses and their Relatives. Chorleywood, U.K. : TMC Publishing 207 pp. 

Kuiter, R.H. 2010. Labridae fishes: wrasses. Seaford, Victoria, Australia : Aquatic Photographics pp. 398.

Russell, B.C. 1988. Revision of the labrid fish genus Pseudolabrus and allied genera. Records of the Australian Museum Suppl. 9: 1-72, plus addendum after plates., col. Pls. 1-4.

Russell, B.C. & Gomon, M.F. 2008. Family Labridae. pp. 638-659 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37384103


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-15 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:8.5 cm SL


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