Brownspotted Wrasse, Notolabrus parilus (Richardson 1850)

Other Names: Blue-spotted Parrotfish, Brown Spotted Wrasse, Brown-spotted Parrotfish, Brown-spotted Wrasse, Orangespotted Wrasse, Orange-spotted Wrasse

A Brownspotted Wrasse, Notolabrus parilus, at Kangaroo Island, South Australia, December 2003. Source: Erik Schlogl / License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial


Widespread in southern Australia, and abundant on coastal reefs and weedy areas in Western Australia. The Brownspotted Wrasse changes sex from female to male during its life.

Juveniles and females:
•Variable in colour from pale greenish to reddish-brown
•Pale centres on some body scales  create a row of white spots along the lateral line
•Five obscure brownish bars on back between dorsal fin and lateral line
•Head and body spotted with darker brown markings; markings around eye in radiating pattern.

•Dark reddish-brown or deep chocolate-brown with a broken whitish band along side below lateral‑line
•Ventral surface whitish
•Body scales with gold, dark brown, or whitish centres, giving a marbled or spotted appearance.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Notolabrus parilus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 20 Jan 2020,

Brownspotted Wrasse, Notolabrus parilus (Richardson 1850)

More Info


Endemic to southern Australia from Queenscliff, Victoria, to Shark Bay, Western Australia. Inhabits shallow rocky reefs to depths of 20 m.

Although widespread in southern Australia, this species is common only in Western Australia where juveniles and females are abundant on algal covered rocky reefs. It is also common in seagrass beds on the west coast.


Meristic features
Dorsal fin spines/rays: IX, 11
Anal fin spines/rays: III, 10
Caudal fin rays: 12
Pectoral fin rays: 14
Pelvic fin spines/rays: I, 5
Lateral line: 25-26

Body moderately deep (30‑38% SL), compressed. Head moderately large (30‑35% SL), dorsal profile convex; eyes moderately large (14‑25% HL); mouth small, upper jaw not reaching as far as eye; teeth moderately large, caniniform, anterior two pairs in both jaws enlarged and recurved; upper jaw lacking enlarged canines at rear. 

Scales moderately large, cycloid, firmly attached, covering body; no scaly sheath at base of dorsal and anal fin; head naked except for one or two rows of cheek scales and 15‑16 large scales on opercle; lateral line abruptly curved downwards below soft dorsal fin. 

Dorsal fin continuous, with elongate base and uniform height; anal fin similar to rear half of dorsal fin; caudal fin truncate. Pectoral fins moderately large, upper rays longest, not quite reaching to anus. Pelvic fins short, arising beneath pectoral-fin bases, not reaching near anus.


Juveniles and females are pale brownish to greenish, with paler centres on some body scales; five obscure brownish bars on back between dorsal fin and lateral line in the interspaces between the upper bars; indistinct zig-zag brownish band joining upper and lower bars along lateral‑line; head and body spotted with darker brown markings; markings around eye in radiating pattern; dorsal and anal fins dusky brown with darker markings; caudal and pectoral fins translucent yellowish. The base colour of smaller individuals is highly variable.

Adult males are dark reddish‑brown or deep chocolate brown with broken whitish band along body beneath lateral‑line; ventral surface whitish; body scales with gold, dark brown, or whitish centres, giving marbled or spotted appearance; fins dusky or reddish brown; dark bar on upper side of pectoral-fin base.


Carnivore - feeds on a range of benthic invertebrates on sandy bottoms, and amongst seagrass and macrophytic algae. Prey items include gastropod molluscs, a range of crustaceans (including amphipods, isopods, prawns and crabs) and echinoids.


The Brownspotted Wrasse is a protogynous hermaphrodite - changes sex from female to male at some stage in its life cycle. The species breeds during late winter to early spring. Spawning occurs in seagrass and reef habitats and the eggs and larvae are pelagic.


Although not targeted, Brownspotted Wrasse are taken as bycatch in the rock lobster and giant crab fishery (South Australia), and possibly in the West Coast Demersal Scalefish Fishery (Western Australia).

Also taken by recreational anglers in Western Australia, however, the flesh is not considered to be of high quality (Pollard et al. 2012).


  • EPBC Act 1999 : Not listed
  • IUCN Red List : Least Concern
  • Etymology

    The specific name parilus from the aboriginal word 'Paril' - the name given this species by the indigenous people of King George Sound (Richardson, 1850). 

    Species Citation

    Tautoga parila Richardson, 1850, Proc. zool. Soc. Lond. 18: 70, King George's Sound, Western Australia.


    Dianne J. Bray

    Brownspotted Wrasse, Notolabrus parilus (Richardson 1850)


    Allen, G.R. 1985. Fishes of Western Australia. Book 9. 2207-2534 526 pls in Burgess, W.E. & Axelrod, H.R. (eds). Pacific Marine Fishes. Neptune, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications.

    Allen, G.R., N.J. Cross, C.J. Allen & M.F. Gomon 2006. Labridae: Labrinae. pp. 1368-1418 in Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (eds). Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35 Australia : ABRS & CSIRO Publishing Parts 1-3, 2178 pp.

    Edgar, G.J. 2000. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Sydney : Reed New Holland 544 pp. [Revised]

    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.

    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. 2001. Checklist of the fishes of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 63: 9-50

    Hyndes, G.A., Kendrick, A.J., MacArthur, L.D. & Stewart, E. 2003. Differences in the species- and size-compositions of fish assemblages in three distinct seagrass habitats with differing plant and meadow structure. Marine Biology 142: 1195-1206.

    Kuiter, R.H. 1997. Guide to sea fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Frenchs Forest, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers I-xvii, 434 pp.

    Lek, E. 2011. Comparisons between the biological characteristics of three co-occurring and reef-dwelling labrid species at two different latitudes. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

    Lek, E., Fairclough, D.V., Hall, N.G., Hesp, S.A. & Potter, I.C. 2012. Do the maximum sizes, ages and patterns of growth of three reef-dwelling labrid species at two latitudes differ in a manner conforming to the metabolic theory of ecology? Journal of Fish Biology 81: 1936–1962. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8649.2012.03446.x

    Lek, E., Fairclough, D.V., Platell, M.E., Clarke, K.R., Tweedley, J.R. & Potter, I.C. 2011. To what extent are the dietary compositions of three abundant, co-occurring labrid species different and related to latitude, habitat, body size and season? Journal of Fish Biology 78: 1913–1943. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8649.2011.02961.x

    McCulloch, A.R. 1930. A check-list of the fishes recorded from Australia. Memoirs of the Australian Museum 5(1–4): 1-534

    Parenti, P. & Randall, J.E. 2000. An annotated checklist of the species of the labroid fish families Labridae and Scaridae. Ichthyological Bulletin of the J.L.B. Smith Institute, Grahamstown 68: 1-97

    Pollard, D., Russell, B. & Fairclough, D. 2010. Notolabrus parilus. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <>. Downloaded on 4 November 2012.

    Richardson, J. 1850. Notices of Australian fish. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 18: 58-77 figs 1-3

    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

    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.

    Thomson, J.M. 1978. A Field Guide to the Common Sea & Estuary Fishes of Non-tropical Australia. Sydney : Collins 144 pp.

    Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37384022

    Biology:Able to change sex

    Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

    Depth:1-20 m

    Habitat:Reef associated

    Max Size:49 cm TL


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