Possum Wrasse, Wetmorella nigropinnata (Seale 1901)

Other Names: Sharpnose Wrasse, White-banded Possum-wrasse, Yellow-banded Possum-wrasse

A Possum Wrasse, Wetmorella nigropinnata, at Ra, Fiji, November 2016. Source: Mark Rosenstein / iNaturalist.org. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

A small greyish to reddish-brown wrasse with a yellow bar on the head behind eye, a second yellow bar on the caudal peduncle, dark ocelli on the soft dorsal and anal fins and a large dark spot on the pelvic fins. Juveniles are mottled brown with two additional pale bars on the body.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Wetmorella nigropinnata in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Jun 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/291

Possum Wrasse, Wetmorella nigropinnata (Seale 1901)

More Info


In Australia, found mostly on offshore reefs and islands: Rowley Shoals and Scott Reef, Western Australia, Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, and the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland and reefs in the Coral Sea; also Middleton and Elizabeth reefs in the Lord Howe Island region. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, Indo-west-central Pacific.
This secretive species shelters in caves and crevices in lagoon and seaward reefs.

Similar Species

Differs from Wetmorella albofasciata and W. tanakai (not found in Australian waters), in only having two broad slightly oblique pale bars on the body in juveniles and subadults. The two narrow pale bars on W. albofasciata converge on the underside.

Species Citation

Cheilinus nigropinnatus Seale 1901, Occasional Papers of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum 1(3): 86. Type locality: Guam. 


Bray, D.J. 2019


Atlas of Living Australia

Possum Wrasse, Wetmorella nigropinnata (Seale 1901)


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls.

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Bertoncini, A. & Yeeting, B. 2010. Wetmorella nigropinnata . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T187407A8527317. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-4.RLTS.T187407A8527317.en. Downloaded on 16 December 2019.

Choat, J.H., van Herwerden, L., Robbins, W.D., Hobbs, J.P. & Ayling, A.M. 2006. A report on the ecological surveys undertaken at Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs, February 2006. Report by James Cook University to the Department of the Environment and Heritage. 65 pp. 

Fowler, H.W. & Bean, B.A. 1928. Contributions to the biology of the Philippine Archipelago and adjacent regions. The fishes of the families Pomacentridae, Labridae and Callyodontidae, collected by the United States Bureau of Fisheries Steamer Albatross, chiefly in Philippine seas and adjacent waters. Bulletin of the United States National Museum 100(7): 1-525 pls 1-49 (described as Wetmorella philippina)

Goeden, G.B. 1974. Revised list of fishes of Heron Wistari Marine National Park. Technical Paper. Department of Forestry, Queensland 2: 1-19 

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

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.

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.

Randall, J.E. 1983. Revision of the Indo-Pacific labrid fish genus Wetmorella. Copeia 1983(4): 875-883 figs 1-3 pl. 1

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press 707 pp.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs.

Randall, J.E. & Kuiter, R.H. 2007. Wetmorella tanakai, a new wrasse (Perciformes: Labridae) from Indonesia and the Philippines. aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology 13(1): 1-6.

Schultz, L.P. & N.B. Marshall. 1954. A review of the labrid fish genus Wetmorella with descriptions of new forms from the tropical Indo-Pacific. Proc. U.S. Natl. Mus. 103: 439-447. (described as Wetmorella ocellata)

Seale, A. 1901. Report of a mission to Guam. Part II. Fishes. Occasional Papers of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum 1(3): 61-128.

Westneat, M.W. 2001. Labridae. pp. 3381-3467 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 6 pp. 3381-4218.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37384174

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-30 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:8 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map