Sunset Wrasse

Sunset Wrasse, Thalassoma grammaticum

The Sunset Wrasse, Thalassoma grammaticum, whose common Spanish name is señorita crepúsculo, is a member of the Wrasse or Labridae Family, known collectively as doncellas, señoritas, and viejas in Mexico. The Sunset Wrasse is a truly gorgeous fish. Globally, there are twenty-eight species in the genus Thalassoma, four of which are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and three in the Pacific.

The Sunset Wrasses have elongated compressed bodies with a depth that is 28 to 32% of standard length. Females and males of the Initial Phase (IP) are greenish-yellow with a faint red band on their head. Terminal Phase (TP) males are greenish-blue and have a pinkish head with narrow greenish bands radiating from their eyes across their cheeks. Their anal and dorsal fins have purple stripes along the base; their caudal fin has purple stripes along the top and bottom edges; and their pectoral and pelvic fins are a uniform green color. Juveniles are greenish-brown dorsally and white ventrally with a black mid-lateral stripe that breaks into spots toward the rear and ends in a black spot at the base of their caudal fin. They have a small terminal mouth equipped with one pair of canine teeth at the front of both jaws. Their caudal fin is strongly concave with the tips becoming more elongated with maturity. Their dorsal fin has 8 spines and 13 or 14 rays. Their body is covered with large scales.

The Sunset Wrasses are found in and around rocky and coral reefs within tidal pools at depths up to 215 feet. They reach a maximum length of 32 cm (13 inches). They are a solitary species that feeds on brittle stars, crabs, mollusks, and sea urchins. They are a rare and poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Sunset Wrasse are found from Magdalena Bay southward along the southwest coast of Baja, from Loreto southward along the southeast coast of Baja, and sporadically along the coast of the mainland being more abundant in southern locations.

The Sunset Wrasse is not easily confused with any other species due to its head markings, but is very similar in shape to the Emerald Wrasse, Thalassoma virens.

The Sunset Wrasses are too rare and too small to be of interest to most. I catch these fish with some regularity mid-day during low tides using a Carolina rig, size 6 hooks, baited with cut squid. They are a “catch-and-release.”

Sunset Wrasse, Thalassoma grammaticum, juvenile. Fish caught from shore at Km 21, Cabo Real, Baja California Sur, December 2014. Length: 14.0 cm (5.5 inches).

Sunset Wrasse, Thalassoma grammaticum, terminal phase (TP) male. Fish caught from shore at Km 21, Cabo Real, Baja California Sur, November 2009. Length: 18.0 cm (7.1 inches).