Bleeding Wrasse

Bleeding Wrasse, Polylepion cruentum

The Bleeding Wrasse, Polylepion cruentum, whose common Spanish name is vieja sangradora, is a member of the Wrasse or Labridae Family, known collectively as doncellas, señoritas, and viejas in Mexico. Globally, there are only three species in the genus Polylepion, one of which is found in Mexican waters, this species in the Pacific.

The Bleeding Wrasses have moderately elongated oval bodies that taper significantly toward the tail and have a depth that is 30 to 32% of standard length. They have an orange-red coloration with a golden-orange belly, a white chin, and a prominent wide silvery stripe along the center of their flank. They have two golden-orange bands that lead into and under their eyes and a third band that extends from the corner of their mouth. Their anal fin is transparent with a yellow band at the margin; their dorsal fin is orange-red with a dark blotch between the first and third spines; their pectoral fins are uniformly orange-red; and their pelvic fins are transparent. They have a pointed head with a large mouth and red eyes. Their dorsal fin has eleven spines and eleven rays and their anal fin has three spines and eleven or twelve rays.

The Bleeding Wrasses are a deep water species found on the bottom over rubble and isolated rocky reefs adjacent to sandy areas at depths between 430 and 775 feet. They reach a maximum length of 25 cm (10 inches) as established by a fish in our possession. They feed diurnally on small crustaceans, sea urchins, mollusks, and brittle stars. They are an exceedingly rare deep-water species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Bleeding Wrasse have a limited and poorly documented range. They are known along the extreme southwest coast of Baja and in the southern Sea of Cortez. An isolated population has also been documented in Costa Rica.

The Bleeding Wrasse is an easy fish to identify due to its unique markings, thus it cannot be confused with any other species.

The Bleeding Wrasses are too small and too rare to be of interest to most.

Bleeding Wrasse, Polylepion cruentum, initial phase (IP), female. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, November 2009. Length: 23 cm (9.1 inches). Note dark spot at top of tail base. Identification courtesy of Dr. Benjamin Victor (www.coralreeffish.com) and reconfirmed by H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.

Bleeding Wrasse (3)

Bleeding Wrasse, Polylepion cruentum, initial phase (IP), female. Fish caught from coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, February 2016. Length: 19.5 cm (7.7 inches).

Bleeding Wrasse (5)

Bleeding Wrasse, Polylepion cruentum, terminal phase (TP), male. Fish caught from coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, February 2016. Length: 21.8 cm (8.6 inches).

Bleeding Wrasse, Polylepion cruentum, terminal phase (TP), male. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, November 2009. Length: 25 cm (10 inches). Identification courtesy of Dr. Benjamin Victor (www.coralreeffish.com) and reconfirmed by H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.

Bleeding Wrasse (7)

Bleeding Wrasse, Polylepion cruentum, terminal phase (TP), male. Fish caught from coastal waters off  Loreto, Baja California Sur, February 2016. Length: 27.3 cm (10.7 inches). This is a length extension and also a range extension for this species.