Bodianus rufus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Labridae

Scientific Name: Bodianus rufus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Spanish Hogfish, Dogfish, Hogfish, Hog snapper
French Pourceau espagnol
Spanish Loro perro negro, Pez perro español, Plátano maduro, Vieja colorada, Vieja española
Labrus rufus Linnaeus, 1758
Taxonomic Notes: For taxonomic treatment see Gomon (2006).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-03-25
Assessor(s): Xie, Y. & Russell, B.
Reviewer(s): Sadovy, Y. & Liu, M.
This is a moderately large species that is not commonly marketed for food and is sometimes seen in the aquarium trade (exported from Brazil). It is widely distributed in the western Atlantic, but little is known of population and life history characterization. Given the lack of trend data, Spanish Hogfish cannot be evaluated against and described as meeting any of the threatened categories at present. No compelling evidence exists to indicate population decreases or range retractions, largely due to the absence of data. It is listed as Least Concern. However, more data is needed to determine this species population status.

Continued monitoring is required to establish population trends. Research is also needed to establish area of occupancy. It is highly recommended that density sampling performed at a large enough scale (sampling more area to obtain sound abundance-area relationships) and be conducted proportionally at all parts of the distribution.

There is a paucity of information relevant to natural population demography. The two databases that contain quantified records of the Spanish Hogfish are REEF (Reef Environment Education Foundation) and GMAD (Global Marine Aquarium Database). However, although the records are extensive both in terms of location and duration, they are either inappropriate for assessment of population trends in REEF’s case, or of highly questionable nature in GMAD’s case. The REEF data is presented as sighting frequency, and given that available information indicates patchy distribution among habitats (e.g. Gardiner and Harborne 2000, Brosnan et al 2002), unsystematic sampling may not be able to represent the spatial and temporal variability of the ecosystem. Therefore it would probably be the best to use these data, as the foundation recommends, as a detailed description of distribution range rather than for extrapolation of population trends. GMAD data regarding international trade of this species is almost certainly incomplete: while local researchers reported export of 3716 individuals during 1995-2000 in a single state of Brazil (Monteiro-Neto et al. 2003), GMAD listed only 2,251 individuals exported from the entire country in the same period, underestimating trade almost two fold.

Estimates of natural populations may be made on some very loose assumptions. Using density data from the Caribbean, estimated total coral reef area and the percentage of habitat actually utilized in the distribution (based on REEF sighting frequency data, which though cannot be used for indication of density, may instead be used as the probability of B. rufus' occurrence in a part of its distribution), an estimate of ~3,841,800 individuals is produced. The number is probably being reduced, though to what extent unknown, primarily through impacts of collection for aquarium. Exploitation pressure is unclear but probably varied throughout its distribution. Potential threats may also include habitat degradation through onshore human activities which, like overexploitation, is extensive and continuous in their habitat. Two thirds of coral reefs inB. rufus' distribution are under medium to very high threat from anthropogenic factors (Burke and Maiden 2004), but the effect on the Spanish Hogfish is indeterminable since no study has investigated as to why B. rufus' shows such strong preference for reef habitats. In general, the animal’s response to these threat factors has not been quantified and too little qualitative work exists for assumptions of generality.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species occurs in tropical shallow waters of the western Atlantic from Bermuda and southern Florida (USA) to the state of Sao Paulo in southern Brazil (Gomon 2006). The extent of occurrence is estimated to be 26,970 km2 based on area of coral reefs in the Caribbean and the east coast of Brazil, which is highly likely to be an overestimation due to the patchiness of the Spanish Hogfish’s distribution.

There is one doubtful record of B. rufus in St. Helena (Central South Atlantic) dating back to 1965 (Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences accessed 2008), probably based on a misidentification.

Its extent of occurrence is estimated to be 26,960 km2 based on the area of coral reefs in the western Atlantic region (25,960 km2 in the Carribean (Burke and Maiden 2004), and 1,000 km2 in the Southern Atlantic (Spalding and Grenfel 1997). This is based on the assumption that the species is present on all reefs in the Caribbean and the east coast of Brazil, it is highly likely to be an overestimation since distribution of local population density is uneven and not all areas may be habited.
Countries occurrence:
Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Bermuda; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (Saba, Sint Eustatius); Brazil; Cayman Islands; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cuba; Curaçao; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Guatemala; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Jamaica; Martinique; Mexico; Montserrat; Nicaragua; Panama; Puerto Rico; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin (French part); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Sint Maarten (Dutch part); Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of; Virgin Islands, British; Virgin Islands, U.S.
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – western central; Atlantic – southwest
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):30
Upper depth limit (metres):1
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:No population estimates exist for Spanish Hogfishes, but an approximate estimate may be derived under very loose assumptions based on the number of individuals as the product of density, distribution area and sighting frequency (as an indication of the probability of occupancy at an area).
N= Density*Distribution area*SF%

1. The average density of the animal is around 0.025/100 m2. Three estimates of density are available in the relevant literature, although of which two are from a single locality at one time (2.8 /100 m2, Pattengill-Semmens 2000, 0.5/100 m2, Brosnan et al 2002 and 0.025/100 m2, Opitz 1996). The 0.025/100 m2 density was chosen since it applies to the Caribbean locality, which constitutes the majority of the distribution. However, as the estimates clearly indicate, density distribution is extremely patchy and the average density across the entire distribution could be vastly different.

2. The fish is commonly and almost exclusively associated which coral reef habitats across its distribution (Gomon 2006). Therefore the total area of coral reef is taken as habitat range, which totals 26,960 km2 for the Caribbean and the Atlantic Brazilian coast.

3. The species occurs in low densities, and abundance is extremely patchy. Therefore sighting frequency for a particular site will be treated as probability of occurrence in a site. In this case, SF% is around 57% as average of respective SF% in different areas averaged over the known record (REEF, accessed May 4th, 2008).
Upon such assumptions, the estimated total number Spanish Hogfish is ~3,841,800 individuals. Confidence limits cannot be stated but the estimate is clearly based on very loose assumptions. In order to better grasp the overall picture of population trends, density needs to be systematically sampled for larger areas to eliminate variations between sites. More study is needed research into variability in habitat use at different sites in order to make the estimate of total population size more rigorous.

Aquarium trade export data for Brazil for 2007 are 3,177 individuals (IBAMA 2007).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:A moderately large species, to about 300 mm SL. Bodianus rufus is commonly found near coral cover, but also occurs on rock reefs, algal covered reefs and seagrass meadows (Gardiner and Harborne 2000). Demersal, lives in close association with the reef substratum (Floeter et al. 2004) and inhabits inshore, midshore and offshore areas (Ferro 2005), usually at depths of 1-6m, but sometimes as deep as 30m (Gomon 2006). Diurnal (Reebs 2002) and relatively sedentary (Floeter et al. 2004).

Juveniles displayed a certain amount of habitat specificity during a regional study in Panama, and were found exclusively around large coral heads (such as Monastrea cavernosa) located at the offshore end of coral structure (Sponaugle and Cowen 1997). Juvenile density is suggested to have a positive relationship with mean depth and the percentage of algal turf cover (Sponaugle and Cowen 1997). However, this is only verified in one study. Bodianus rufus is able to delay metamorphosis but usually settle at relatively smaller sizes (8-10mm SL) during the minimum amplitude tides of the third-quarter moon and second minimum amplitude tide, which may be linked to currents as they are weak swimmers (Sponaugle and Cowen 1997). Unlike most labrids, B. rufus settles directly to the reef, without burrowing in the sand. Larval duration is around 42 days (Victor 1986) and metamorphosis is gradual and occurs while these fishes remain above the substrate (Sponaugle and Cowen 1997).

Adults are mobile invertebrate feeders that predominately prey on mollusks, as well as brittle stars, crustaceans and sea urchins (Floeter et al. 2004, Bardach 2002, Randall 1967). Juveniles actively pick parasites from larger fishes and are facultative cleaners (Johnson and Ruben 1988). The fish is infrequently the prey of the Bottlenose dolphin in Florida Bay (Torres 2007).

The species is a protogynous hermaphrodite, with a dominant male guarding a permanent territory of several females (Hoffman 1983). The number of females varies throughout the distribution, ranging from 3-12 (Hoffman 1985) or up to 20 in some cases (Rocha 2000). The male will go around the territory to pair spawn with each female. Breeding cycle is acyclic, usually occurring at dusk, and mating takes place all year (Hoffman 1985). It may hybridize with spotfin hogfish, B. pulchellus.

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The species is reported to be used for subsistence consumption in some regions (Coblentz 1997), although it is known to cause ciguatera (Froese and Paul 2008). However, it is primarily utilized for the aquarium trade and is obtained solely through captures from the wild. Brazil is the biggest trader with the species ranking 10th in its export (Wood 2001), where most of the animals are directed to the international market. Nevertheless, information regarding how the fished is utilized, especially in terms of the aquarium trade, is scant and data for the whole distribution is absent. Attempts are being made to breed this species in captivity (UNEP 2008).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There are no major threats.

Exploitation and habitat degradation are probably the biggest potential threats to the Spanish Hogfish, both of which are extensive and continuing throughout its distribution. However, the lack of investigation prevents any substantial analysis of the responses to the present level of threats.

In terms of exploitation, which mainly occurs for the aquarium trade, it is estimated from GMAD data that labrids account for 6-7% of the global trade of fish (Wabnitz et al 2003). In the largest single trading country of B.rufus, Brazil (Wood 2001), the fish is under high pressure of the aquarium trade (Gasparini et al. 2004). However, databases (e.g. GMAD) as well as official figures represent underestimations of the total number of captured specimens (Gasparini et al. 2004). Furthermore, it is unknown how the pressures of exploitation are distributed in different parts of the entire distribution.

Even less clear is whether or how habitat degradation is affecting B.rufus. However, as two thirds of Caribbean reefs are under medium to high threat (Burke and Maiden 2004), the animals will be hard-pressed to find a spatial escape, should there be any detrimental impact. The degradation of reef habitats is largely anthropogenic in source, and most severe near major urban centers, where discharge of storm water and treated sewage leads to eutrophication and increased sedimentation for reefs (Burke and Maiden 2004). However, there is little information on how B.rufus utilizes the reef habitat or how sensitive it is to habitat loss of degradation.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There is little conservation action that targets the Spanish Hogfish specifically in its distribution, nor are there any limits to domestic or international trading. An exception is Florida (USA), where B.rufus is subject to a minimum and maximum size restriction of two inches and eight inches, aside from bag limits and permitting requirements. In addition, there is a limit of fifty animals per person per day, and a maximum possession limit of 100 of either at any time aboard a vessel with two or more persons licensed as required (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission).

Continued monitoring is required to establish population trends. Research is also needed to establish areas of occupancy. It is highly recommended that density sampling performed at a large enough scale (sampling more area to obtain sound abundance-area relationships) and be conducted proportionally at all parts of the distribution.

Classifications [top]

9. Marine Neritic -> 9.2. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Rock and Rocky Reefs
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.7. Marine Neritic - Macroalgal/Kelp
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.9. Marine Neritic - Seagrass (Submerged)
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.2. Trade management

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:Yes
In-Place Education
5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.2. Intentional use: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

9. Pollution -> 9.1. Domestic & urban waste water -> 9.1.1. Sewage
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

9. Pollution -> 9.1. Domestic & urban waste water -> 9.1.2. Run-off
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
2. Conservation Planning -> 2.3. Harvest & Trade Management Plan
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓   National : ✓ 

♦  Pets/display animals, horticulture
 National : ✓  International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

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Brosnan, D., Buffam, I. and Brosnan, I. 2002. Scientific Monitoring: Report and Recommendations. The Marine Reserve of St. Barthelemy, French West Indies. Sustainable Ecosystems Institute, Portland, OR, USA.

Burke L., and Maiden J. 2004. Reefs at Risk in the Caribbean. World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.

Coblentz B. 1997. Subsistence Consumption of Coral Reef Fish Suggests Non-Sustainable Extraction. Conservation Biology 11(2): 559-561.

Fleur, F., Jordan, L.K.B. and Spieler, R.E. 2005. The Marine Fishes of Broward County, Florida: Final Report of 1998-2002 Survey Results. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFSC-532. NOAA.

Floeter, S.R., Ferreira, C.E.L., Dominici-Arosemena, A. and Zalmon, I.R. 2004. Latitudinal gradients in Atlantic reef fish communities: trophic structure and spatial use patterns. Journal of Fish Biology 64: 1680–1699.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 2007. Florida Administrative Weekly and Florida Administrative Code Division: 68B. Available at:

Froese, R. and Pauly, D. 2008. Fishbase. World Wide Web electronic publication. Available at:, version 6/2008.

Gardiner, R. and Harborne, A. 2000. Summary of Coral Cay conservation’s data on commercially important reef fish and invertebrates from Turneffe Atoll, Belize. Turneffe Atoll commercial species report. Coral Cay Conservation, London, UK.

Gasparini, J.L., Floeter, S.R., Ferreira, C.E.L. and Sazima, I. 2003. Marine ornamental trade in Brazil. Biodiversity and Conservation 14: 2883-2899.

Global Marine Aquarium Database (GMAD). 2008. Global Marine Aquarium Database (GMAD). Available at: (Accessed: 4. June).

Gomon, M.F. 2006. A revision of the labrid fish genus Bodianus with descriptions of eight new species. Records of the Australian Museum Supplement 30: 1-133.

Hoffman, S.G. 1983. Sex-related foraging behavior in sequentially hermaphroditic hogfishes (Bodianus spp.). Ecology 64: 798-808.

Hoffman, S.G. 1985. Effects of size and sex on the social organization of reef-associated hogfishes, Bodianus spp. Environmental Biology of Fishes 14(2/3): 185-197.

IBAMA. 2007. Peixes Ornamentais Marinhos Estatica de Exportacao por especie para 2007. Available at:

Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University. 2008. iziko South African Museum - Fish Collection (AfrOBIS). Available at:

IUCN. 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2010.4). Available at: (Accessed: 27 October 2010).

Johnson, W. and Ruben, P. 1988. Cleaning behaviour of Bodianus rufus, Thalassoma bifasciatum, Gobiosoma evelynae and Periclimenes pedersoni along a depth gradient at Salt River Submarine Canyon, St Croix. Environmental Biology of Fishes 23: 225-232.

Opitz, S. 1993. A quantitative model of the trophic interactions in a Caribbean coral reef ecosystem. In: D. Pauly and V, Christensen (eds), Trophic Models of Aquatic Ecosystems. ICLARM Conference Proceedings 26: 269-278.

Pattengill-Semmens C., Gittings, S.R. and Shyka, T. 2000. Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary: A Rapid Assessment of Coral, Fish, and Algae Using the AGRRA Protocol. Marine Sanctuaries Conservation Series MSD-00-3.. US Department of Commerce, NOAA, Marine Sanctuaries Division, Silver Spring, MD.

Randall, J.E. 1967. Food habits of reef fishes of the West Indies. Studies in Tropical Oceanography Miami 5: 665-847.

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Rocha, L. 2000. Intraspecific aggression in Spanish Hogfishes (Bodianus rufus) in Northeastern Brazil. Coral Reefs 19(2): 184.

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Sponaugle, S. and Cowen, R.K. 1997. Early life history traits and recruitment patterns of Caribbean wrasses (Labridae). Ecological Monographs 67(2): 177-202.

Torres, L.G. 2007. Top predator distribution and foraging ecology in Florida Bay, Florida. Department of Environment, Duke University.

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Victor, B.C. 1986. Duration of the planktonic larval stage of one hundred species of Pacific and Atlantic wrasses (family Labridae). Marine Biology 90(3): 317-326.

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Citation: Xie, Y. & Russell, B. 2010. Bodianus rufus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T187672A8596282. . Downloaded on 18 August 2018.
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