Gomphosus varius


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Gomphosus varius
Species Authority: Lacepède, 1801
Common Name/s:
English Bird-nose wrasse, Bird wrasse, Brown bird wrasse, Olive club-nosed wrasse, Purple club-nosed wrasse
French Perroquet, Poisson oiseau
Spanish Vieja trompetera
Gomphorus varius Lacepède, 1801
Gomphorus varius Lacepède, 1801
Gomphosus cepedianus Valenciennes, 1840
Gomphosus cepedianus Valenciennes, 1840
Gomphosus fuscus Valenciennes, 1840
Gomphosus fuscus Valenciennes, 1840
Gomphosus notostigma Bleeker, 1862
Gomphosus notostigma Bleeker, 1862
Gomphosus pacificus Seale, 1901
Gomphosus pacificus Seale, 1901
Gomphosus pectoralis (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824)
Gomphosus pectoralis (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824)
Gomphosus sandvicensis Günther, 1862
Gomphosus sandvicensis Günther, 1862
Gomphosus tricolor Quoy & Gaimard, 1824
Gomphosus tricolor Quoy & Gaimard, 1824
Gomphosus undulatus Streets, 1877
Gomphosus undulatus Streets, 1877
Gomphosus viridis Cuvier, 1829
Gomphosus viridis Cuvier, 1829
Thalassoma stuckiae Whitley, 1959
Thalassoma stuckiae Whitley, 1959
Taxonomic Notes: A hybrid between Gomphosus varius x T. Lunare was found in Solomon Islands (Allen 2006).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2008-05-12
Assessor/s: Shea, S., Liu, M. & Rocha, L.A.
Reviewer/s: Sadovy, Y. & Carpenter, K.E.
This species is widespread in the Indo-Pacific, and is common throughout its range. Although it is collected for the aquarium trade and is associated with coral reefs, a habitat under threat in many parts of its range, there is no current indication of population decline. It is listed as Least Concern. However, more research is needed on the impact of the aquarium trade and habitat loss for this species. Furthermore, there are very little published information on reproduction, recruitment, life histories and natural mortality of this species.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is widely distributed in the Indo-Pacific (Westneat 2001). It is found from Cocos-Keeling to the Hawaiian and Tuamoto Islands, and from the Philippines, north to Ryukyu Islands, Japan, south to Indonesia, Australia, Papua New Guinea and Rapa Islands. It is replaced by G. caeruleus in the Indian Ocean (Myers 1999).
American Samoa (American Samoa); Australia; Cambodia; China; Christmas Island; Cocos (Keeling) Islands; Cook Islands; Fiji; French Polynesia; Guam; Indonesia; Japan; Kiribati; Malaysia; Marshall Islands; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Nauru; New Caledonia; Niue; Norfolk Island; Northern Mariana Islands; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Pitcairn; Samoa; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Taiwan, Province of China; Thailand; Tokelau; Tonga; Tuvalu; United States; United States Minor Outlying Islands; Vanuatu; Viet Nam; Wallis and Futuna
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – southwest; Pacific – western central
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: This species is common throughout most of its range.

In general, it is possibly one of the most abundant species in Hawaii and French Polynesia, however, there are no data on total numbers of this fish. In French Polynesia, it is the most abundant species in the barrier reef community. Mean density of juveniles at eight sampling stations was recorded at 5.26 individuals per 100 m2 (Lecchini and Galzin 2005). In Pelekane Bay, Hawaii, 1.9 individuals per 100 m2 were observed by using underwater visual census surveys (Tissot 1998). In Tonga, biomass was estimated at 12.35 g per 100 m2 in Tongatapu reefs (Matoto et al. 1996).

It is one of the most common fishes in the marine protected area of south central Vietnam (Nguyen and Phan 2008).

In Solomon Islands, it is common (Allen 2006).

In Fiji, a total of 285 individuals were observed in various UVC surveys with body sizes of 5-20 cm TL (M. Kulbicki pers. comm. 2008)

In New Caledonia, a total of 2,241 individuals were observed in various UVC surveys with body sizes of 3-30 cm TL. In 16 stations, a total of 39 individuals were caught with total body weight of 712 g (M. Kulbicki pers. comm. 2008)

In French-Polynesia, a total of 512 individuals were observed in various UVC surveys with body sizes of 4-32 cm TL (M. Kulbicki pers. comm. 2008)

In Tonga, a total of 306 individuals were observed in various UVC surveys with body sizes of 5-25 cm TL (M. Kulbicki pers. comm. 2008)

In addition, more than 50 individuals have been observed at Lizard Island and found to be abundant in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia (Fulton et al. 2001). Stock was estimated at around 230,000 individuals in TUVALU (Secretariat of Pacific Community 2007).
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species inhabits lagoons, coral rich areas, rocky and seaward reefs at depths of two to at least 30 m (Allen 1999, Myers 1999, Mundy 2005). Juveniles are sometimes found in seagrass. It is common on both ocean-side and lagoon reefs (Colin and Bell 1991). It is diurnally active and found in small groups or solitary. Abundance is positively correlated with coral topography (Nanami et al. 2005).

It is a trophic specialist that uses its elongate jaws to pick up small benthic crustaceans including crabs and alpheid shrimps, brittle stars, molluscs and small fishes from coral and rocky crevices (Hiatt and Strasburg 1960, Randall et al. 1990, Westneat 2001). Hobson (1974) reported that approximately 70.4% of the diet volume consisted of crustaceans. It covers large areas and goes at high speeds when foraging (Bellwood and Wainwright 2001).

Sexual pattern of this species is still unknown. The colour pattern differs according to the sexual development. Females are generally lighter in colour than males (Allen 2000). The females possess a light white-cream colour on the front half of the body and the male has an all green body, ranging from a light olive to a dark green or greenish blue (Kuiter 1999). Jaws of adults are extremely elongate, while snouts of juveniles are less elongate (Myers 1999). Caudal fin rounded in small individuals, but truncate with prolonged into filamentous in large males (Westneat 2001). Lateral line curved below posterior portion of dorsal-fin base with 26 or 27 pored scales (Westneat 2001).

Large terminal phase males have been observed to move to prominent corals within the reef areas to spawn (Thresher 1984). Pair and group spawning have been observed (Thresher 1984, Colin and Bell 1991, Sancho et al. 2000).

Terminal phase males appeared territorial during reproductive hours, with terminal phase male – male aggression. Patrolling of territories was not observed. During courtship, terminal phase males' body colouration became bluish and the green bar intensified. Males positioned above and quivered while fluttering the pectoral and caudal fins. Spawning ascent distance was about two to four m with rapid ascending speed. Spawning activities occurred after high tide and were observed in March, April, May and November. Egg sizes ranged from 0.55-0.56 and were spherical in shape (Colin and Bell 1991).

In Hawaii, based upon the analysis of otolith increments, planktonic larval duration was found at around 65.3 +/- 5.8 days, while in Palau, the larval duration was recorded at 51.8 +/- 6.4 days (Victor 1986). Victor (1986) suggested that it has relatively long larval lives among the one hundred examined labrids.

Juveniles have been observed to settle on the substrate at approximately 35-40 mm TL in French Polynesia (Lecchini and Galzin 2005). Furthermore, hybrids of G. varius with Thalassoma lunare and Thalassoma duperrey have been documented from Australia and Hawaii, respectively (Randall and Allen 2004).

Maximum size of this species is 30-32 cm SL (Westneat 2001, Michel Kulbicki pers. comm. 2008).
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There are no major threats for this species. However, this species is collected for the aquarium trade in many parts of its range. For example, aquarium trade of G. varius is reported in Sri Lanka (Ekaratne 2000). There are no detailed and long term information on the numbers of this species that are being collected, aquarium trade monitoring, and location of extractions.

An unknown number of amateurs collect this species throughout the Great Barrier Reef region (Whitehead et al. 1986) and use chemicals such as chlorinated lime, quinaldine with potassium permanganate or methylene blue to capture fishes in the Great Barrier Reef regions (Whitehead et al. 1986). Researches indicate that use of destructive fishing practices is widespread in Southeast Asia, for instance, in the Philippines, approximately 70% of ornamental fishes are caught with cyanide (Hingco and Rivera 1991) and it is reported that poison fishing would cause severe damage to coral colonies and the intestinal lining of fishes (Bellwood 1981). High mortality in the aquarium trade can also exert stresses on wild populations if shops then purchase replacement animals (Sadovy and Vincent 2002). Thus, marine aquarium trade could be one of the main threats to this species.

Many of the focal organisms might be vulnerable to overharvesting since they possess complex life history characteristics, limited and highly specific habitat requirements (Ochavillo and Hodgson 2006). Destructive fishing techniques might directly destroy coral reef habitats or disrupt the ecosystem structure and function by poisoning or physically damaging the corals (Wood 2001). Coral reefs are currently suffering from both human- and natural- induced disturbances and worldwide declines have been well documented (Stone 2007). Since G. varius is highly associated with the coral habitats, it might be assumed that habitat destruction would be another main threat to this species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no species-specific conservation measures for this species. However, this species distribution includes several Marine Protected Areas within its range.

This species has been observed in the Shark reef Marine Reserve, Fiji (Brunnschweiler and Earle 2006) where no fishing is allowed in the marine reserve. In the Great Barrier Reef regions, only licensed fishermen are allowed to capture fishes for ornamental trade and currently it is monitored by the Department of Primary Industry, Australia. Fishing is allowed outside the protected areas and the use of chemicals to capture fishes and any destruction of habitat are prohibited (Dufour 1997).

While many marine parks and marine reserves have been introduced in areas within the geographic range of this species, for instance, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Philippines, however, most of these marine protected areas (MPAs) are considered to be poorly managed or have poor legislation enforcement. Thus, the majority of these MPAs probably provide insufficient protection to the species that they are housing (Chou et al. 2002).

Within its distribution range, destructive fishing practices including poison, explosive and illegal fishing coupled with heavy fishing pressure might rapidly reduce the number of this species (Chou et al. 2002). In addition, consumers' preference on the brightly coloured males and its relatively higher value (Sadovy and Vincent 2002) might contribute to its rapid decline in the numbers of males in assemblages locally. Furthermore, selective harvesting for males of particular populations might also lead to reproductive failure and ultimately population collapse due to heavily biased sex ratios in remaining schools (Vincent and Sadovy 1998). More information is needed regarding to the impacts of aquarium fish collecting on this species.

Worldwide coral reef decline has now been well documented (Stone et al. 1996), some 50% of the world’s corals would be completely destroyed over the next 30 years and massive coral species extinctions are to be expected (Stone 2007). As G. varius is highly associated with coral areas, data on the conservation and habitat status of this species are recommended.

Bibliography [top]

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Citation: Shea, S., Liu, M. & Rocha, L.A. 2010. Gomphosus varius. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 18 April 2014.
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