Puddingwife, Halichoeres radiatus
The Puddingwife, Halichoeres radiatus, whose common Spanish name is doncella azulada, is a member of the Wrasse or Labridae Family, known collectively as doncellas, señoritas, and viejas in Mexico. Globally, there are seventy species in the genus Halichoeres, nineteen of which are found in Mexican waters, ten in the Atlantic and nine in the Pacific.
The Puddingwifes have elliptical moderately compressed bodies with a depth that is 27 to 35% of standard length; more mature fish have wider bodies. They are colorful fish varying from blue to green with a yellowish caudal fin margin. Their body is covered with short light blue lines and their head has blue scrawls. They have a dark spot at the base of their pectoral fin. Females (Initial Phase) are yellowish-green to bluish-green with areas of yellow-gold. Their upper back has five white bars and one or two black rectangular areas behind to the rear of the last bars. Terminal Phase (TP) Males are darker blue-green with diminished bars; mature fish only have two blotches. Their head has a similar upper and lower rounded profile. They have two pairs of enlarged canine teeth on their lower jaw. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 12 rays; their caudal fin is rounded; their dorsal fin has 9 spines and 11 rays; and their lateral line is continuous with an abrupt downward bend under the dorsal rays. They have 16 to 18 gill rakers and their body is covered with large scales.
The Puddingwifes are coastal residents found within patch reef and rocky structures at depths up to 165 feet. Juveniles are found in shallower waters than adults. They reach a maximum length of 51 cm (20 inches). They feed diurnally on small crustaceans, sea urchins, mollusks, and brittle stars. They are a relatively small shallow-water species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Puddingwife are found in all waters of the Atlantic.
The Puddingwife is an easy fish to identify due to the banding pattern along the top of its back. They are very similar in appearance to the Banded Wrasse, Halichoeres notospilus, found only in the Pacific Ocean.
The Puddingwifes are sold on a limited basis as fresh fish and also used by the aquarium trade on a limited basis.
Puddingwife, Halichoeres radiates, initial phase (IP) female. Fish caught out of coastal waters off Sugarloaf Key, Florida, August 2014. Length: 18 cm (7.1 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA.
Puddingwife, Halichoeres radiates, initial phase (IP) female. Fish caught out of coastal waters off Key West, Florida, June 2015. Length: 17 cm (6.7 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA.
Puddingwife, Halichoeres radiates, initial phase (IP) female. Fish caught off the Vidanta Grand Luxx Resort Pier, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, February 2016. Length: 17.8 cm (7.0 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.