Common name: harlequin sweetlips
Synonyms and Other Names: spotted sweetlips
available through www.itis.gov
Identification: This species goes through a dramatic change in coloration and spotting pattern as it grows. Juveniles are brown with 7 large dark-edged white spots or bars on the head and body (Randall 2005). The caudal fin is deeply forked with broad rounded lobes, each white with a large brown spot (Randall 2005). By contrast, the adults are pale green dorsally with numerous close-set black spots on the head and body and uniformly gray ventrally up to the pectoral fin with a slightly forked caudal fin (Randall 2005).
Size: This species can grow to 60 cm standard length (Randall et al. 1997).
Native Range: Harlequin sweetlips is native in the Indo-Pacific Ocean from the Maldives and Mauritius, north to the Ryukus Islands, south to the Great Barrier Reef, and west to Tonga (Myers 1999, Randall 2005).
One individual was observed in the Caribbean Sea at Creole Rock, St. Martin in 2007 (REEF 2008).
Ecology: Harlequin sweetlips is common on coral reefs at depths 1-30 m (Myers 1999). Adults are solitary and shelter during the day under ledges or tabular/table corals (Myers 1999). The colorful juveniles swim with their heads angled down while excessively undulating their fins. This behavior could be mimicking unpalatable flatworms or nudibranchs offering some protection from predators (Randall and Emery 1971). This species feeds on crustaceans, mollusks, and other fishes (Myers 1999).
Means of Introduction: Probable aquarium release.
Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made. A study by Kerry and Bellwood (2016) found this species to be moderately competitive for tabular structure space on a coral reef. Non-native large individuals could displace native fishes from this finite shelter resource.
References: (click for full references)
Dee, L.E., K.A. Karr, C.J. Landesberg, and D.J. Thornhill. 2019. Assessing vulnerability of fish in the U.S. marine aquarium trade. Frontiers in Marine Science 5:527.
Kerry, J.T., and D.R. Bellwood. 2016. Competition for shelter in a high-diversity system: structure use by large reef fishes. Coral Reefs 35:245–252.
Myers, R.F. 1999. Micronesian reef fishes: A field guide for divers and aquarists. Coral Graphics, Guam, USA.
Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and Shore Fishes of the South Pacific: New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.
Randall, J.E., and A.R. Emery. 1971. On the resemblance of the young of the fishes Platax pinnatus and Plechtorhynchus chaetodontoides to flatworms and nudibranchs. Zoologica 56:115–119.
Randall, J.E., G.R. Allen, and R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.
Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). 2008. Exotic species sighting program and volunteer database. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.reef.org, date of download 10. Mar. 08.
Brown, M.E., and Schofield, P.J.
Revision Date: 8/7/2020
Peer Review Date: 8/7/2020
Brown, M.E., and Schofield, P.J., 2021, Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides Lacepède, 1801: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=2765, Revision Date: 8/7/2020, Peer Review Date: 8/7/2020, Access Date: 9/23/2021
This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.