Unusual fish Slinger wrasse: all about the predator with a retractable jaw


Have you ever seen a fish that can extend its jaw half the length of its body? Such a fish exists, and it is called a sling-jaw wrasse. This is one of the most unusual and amazing fish in the world, which has unique adaptations to its habitat and lifestyle. In this article we will tell you everything about the slinger wrasse: what it looks like, where it lives, how it hunts, reproduces and interacts with other fish and humans.


Description of the slinger wrasse

The slinger wrasse (Epibulus insidiator) belongs to the labrid family, which also includes parrotfishes, wrasses, bettas and other colorful fish. It is distributed in tropical and subtropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region, from Africa to Polynesia.

The slinger wrasse has an elongated body that reaches 35 cm in length. Females are smaller in size than males. Some males can reach 54 cm in length.

Body color depends on the age, sex and habitat of the fish. Juveniles are white with dark spots and stripes that help them camouflage among corals. Adult males are grayish-brown with an orange back, a yellowish transverse stripe on the side, and a pale gray head marked by a thin black stripe running through the eye. Females can be bright yellow or dark brown. A special feature of the slinger wrasse is its scales, which have protruding edges and create a mosaic effect on the fish’s body.

But the most amazing feature of the slinger wrasse is its jaw, which can extend into a long tube. This adaptation allows the fish to capture its prey from a distance without swimming too close to it.

The jaw of the slinger wrasse consists of two parts: upper and lower. The top part is attached to the skull with a joint that allows it to rotate up and down. The lower part is attached to the upper part by another joint, which allows it to move forward and return back. When a slinger wrasse hunts, it very quickly extends its jaw and opens its mouth, creating a vacuum that sucks its prey inside. It then quickly closes its mouth and retracts its jaw, chewing and swallowing its prey. You can see this entire unusual process in the short video at the end of this article.

Interesting fact

The slinger wrasse has the largest jaw protrusion of any fish. Its retractable jaw can extend up to half the length of its body, forming a tubular shape.

The slinger wrasse also has the ability to change its color depending on the situation. It can become brighter or darker, indicating your mood, health or gender. For example, when a slinger wrasse encounters another male of its own species, it may turn darker and show its scales, demonstrating its strength and readiness to fight. When the slinger wrasse is ready to breed, it may become more colorful and show its stripes, attracting the attention of females. When a slinger wrasse is stressed or sick, it may become paler and lose its patterns, showing weakness or illness.

Unusual fish Slinger wrasse: all about the predator with a retractable jaw

Male | wikipedia.org

Unusual fish Slinger wrasse: all about the predator with a retractable jaw

Yellow female | wikipedia.org


Habitat and lifestyle of the slinger wrasse

The slinger wrasse prefers to live in coastal waters where there is plenty of coral, sponges, algae and other cover. It lives at depths from 1 to 30 meters, but is most often found at depths from 5 to 15 meters. It loves warm and clean water, with a temperature of 24 to 28 degrees Celsius. It avoids strong currents and waves that may interfere with its hunting and communication.

The slinger wrasse leads a solitary lifestyle, although sometimes it can form small groups of several individuals. It is very territorial and defends its area from other fish, especially from its relatives. It marks its territory using sounds, color signals and pheromones that it secretes from its gills. It can also attack or chase intruders using its retractable jaws.

The slinger wrasse communicates with other fish through sounds it makes by snapping its teeth. He also uses his coloring, posture and movements to convey different messages. For example, when he wants to show his friendliness or submission, he may lower his fins and become lighter in color. When he wants to show his aggression or dominance, he can raise his fins and become darker.

The slinger wrasse is a predator that feeds on small fish, shrimp, crabs, shellfish and other invertebrates. It hunts using its retractable jaw, which allows it to capture prey from a distance without swimming too close to it. It can also use its coloration to camouflage itself among coral or sand, or, conversely, to scare or attract other fish. The slinger wrasse hunts primarily during the day, when its prey is active. At night he hides in shelters where he sleeps and regains his strength.

Unusual fish Slinger wrasse: all about the predator with a retractable jaw

Male | wikimedia.org

Unusual fish Slinger wrasse: all about the predator with a retractable jaw

Dark female | wikipedia.org


Peculiarities of reproduction of the slinger wrasse

The slinger wrasse reaches sexual maturity at about two years of age. He is a hermaphrodite, meaning he can change his gender throughout his life. In most cases, the slinger wrasse is born as a female and then changes to a male when it reaches a certain size or age. However, sometimes he can remain a female all his life or change from male to female if there are not enough females in his group. This allows the slinger wrasse to maintain an optimal sex ratio in its population.

The mating season of the slinger wrasse occurs in the spring and summer, when the water is warm enough and fertile. At this time, males become more colorful and aggressive, trying to attract the attention of females and drive away competitors. They also show off their scales, fins and jaws by doing various movements and dances. Females choose a male based on his appearance, sounds and behavior. When the female finds a suitable partner, she swims up to him and lets him know that she is ready to mate.

The spawning process takes place in open water, where the male and female rise up, entwining themselves around each other. They simultaneously release their eggs and milk, which mix in the water. One female can produce up to 200,000 eggs at a time. Eggs and milk have no protection and are subject to the influence of currents, predators and other factors. The slinger wrasse does not care for its offspring and does not protect them from danger.

Slinger wrasse eggs hatch after a few days and hatch into larvae that feed on plankton and drift in the water. The larvae have a transparent body with large eyes and fins. They are very vulnerable to predators and can die from many causes. Only a small proportion of the larvae survive and reach the fry stage, when they begin to resemble adult fish. The fry descend to the bottom and seek shelter among corals and other objects. They grow and develop, changing their color and body shape. They also change their sex if necessary for balance in the population.

Unusual fish Slinger wrasse: all about the predator with a retractable jaw



The importance of the slinger wrasse to the ecosystem and people

The slinger wrasse plays an important role in the ecosystem as it influences the populations of other fish and invertebrates that are its prey or competitors. It also serves as prey for other predators such as sharks, barracudas, rays and other large fish. The slinger wrasse helps maintain biodiversity and balance in its habitat.

This fish is not of great importance to humans, since it is not an object of industrial or sport fishing. The slinger wrasse is also not considered edible, as its meat can be toxic due to the presence of cyanobacteria, which it eats along with other food.

However, the slinger wrasse may be of interest to scuba diving and photography enthusiasts, as it has a beautiful and unusual appearance and behavior. It can also be kept in an aquarium, but this requires special conditions and care, as it is very sensitive to changes in temperature, water quality and nutrition. It may also attack other fish in the aquarium if it does not feel comfortable or does not have enough space. In general, the slinger wrasse is not common in aquariums, probably due to its large size.

The slinger wrasse is not endangered because it has a wide distribution and high numbers. However, it may suffer from destruction and pollution of its habitat, as well as from overfishing of other fish that are its prey or breeding partners. Therefore, it is necessary to preserve and protect its natural environment, as well as comply with the rules and regulations of fisheries and aquarium husbandry.