Purple Wrasse, Notolabrus fucicola (Richardson 1840)

Other Names: Blue Wrasse, Kelpie, New Zealand Banded Wrasse, Parrotfish, Purple Parrotfish, Saddled Wrasse, Southern Purple Wrasse, Southern Wrasse, Winter Bream, Yellow-saddled Wrasse

A Purple Wrasse, Notolabrus fucicola, at Eaglehawk, Tasmania, February 2017. Source: John Turnbull / Flickr. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike


Adults are greyish to greenish with a purple hue, and have five yellowish blotches along the back extending onto the dorsal fin, and often a yellow band at the back of the head behind the gill cover.

Juveniles are reddish-brown, greenish-brown or greyish-green with greenish and orange mottling.

Unlike most wrasses, which usually change sex from female to male during their life, all Purple Wrasses start life as females, and some change sex to become males before they mature. So, both large males and females are present in the population, which is relatively rare in the family Labridae.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J., Notolabrus fucicola in Fishes of Australia, accessed 04 Dec 2021, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/253

Purple Wrasse, Notolabrus fucicola (Richardson 1840)

More Info


Found in southern and eastern Australia from Sydney Harbour, New South Wales to Kangaroo Island, South Australia, and coastal Tasmania. The species has also been recorded from Lord Howe Island. Elsewhere, the species is widespread in coastal waters of New Zealand and the Chatham Islands.

Inhabits kelp beds on exposed and moderately exposed rocky reefs in depths of 1-90 m.


Dorsal fin IX, 11; Anal fin III, 10; Caudal fin 12; Pectoral fin 14; Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line scales 24-26.


45 cm TL (total length)


It is easily distinguished by the four or five regular short yellow blotches along the top of the body at the base of the dorsal fin. The body colour ranges from uniform grey, green to purple in mature males.


Carnivore - preys on a range of hard-shelled benthic invertebrates such as gastropod and bivalve molluscs, crabs, chitons, limpets and sea urchins. Juveniles feed mostly on small crustaceans such as amphipods and isopods.


The Purple Wrasse is a hermaphrodite and may change sex during the life cycle. The species is a secondary gonochorist - all individuals initially develop as females and some individuals change sex to males before they mature.

The species is an asynchronous spawner, meaning that only a portion of the eggs in the ovary mature at any one time. Eggs and larvae are pelagic.


  • IUCN Red List : Least Concern
  • Remarks

    May bite divers, and has been known to cause a scraping bite wound on the face.

    Similar Species

    Adults differs from those of Notolabrus gymnogenisNotolabrus parilus and Notolabrus tetricus in having five yellow blotches along the side, and in lacking vertical bands and/or a white lateral stripe.


    The species name fucicola is from the Latin fuscus, meaning 'seaweed', and cola meaning 'dweller', in reference to the fact that this species lives amongst seaweeds.

    Species Citation

    Labrus fucicola Richardson, 1840, Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond 8: 26, Type locality - Port Arthur, TAS


    Bray, D.J.

    Purple Wrasse, Notolabrus fucicola (Richardson 1840)


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    Denny, C. & D. Schiel. 2001. Feeding ecology of the banded wrasse Notolabrus fucicola (Labridae) in southern New Zealand: prey items, seasonal differences, and ontogenetic variation, New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 35: 925-933.

    Denny, C. & D. Schiel. 2002. Reproductive biology and population structure of the banded wrasse, Notolabrus fucicola (Labridae) around Kaikoura, New Zealand, New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 36: 555-563.

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    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.

    Grant, E.M. 1991. Fishes of Australia. Brisbane : EM Grant Pty Ltd 480 pp.

    Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

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    May, J.L. & J.G.H. Maxwell, 1986. Trawl fish from temperate waters of Australia. CSIRO Division of Fisheries Research, Tasmania. 492 pp.

    Richardson, J. 1840. On some new species of fishes from Australia. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 8: 25-30.

    Russell, B.C. 1983. The food and feeding habits of rocky reef fish of north-eastern New Zealand. N.Z. J. Mar. Freshwat. Res. 17(2): 121-145.

    Russell, B.C. 1988. Revision of the labrid fish genus Pseudolabrus and allied genera. Records of the Australian Museum, Supplement 9: 1-72. PDF Open access

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    Waite, E.R. 1910. Additions to the fish fauna of New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 1910(1): 25-26 (as Pseudolabrus pittensis)

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    Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37384021

    Biology:Able to change sex

    Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

    Depth:1-90 m

    Fishing:Recreational & commercial fish

    Habitat:Reef associated

    Max Size:45 cm TL

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