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Expedition Log: Maldives – Day 16

The Sweetlips are a family of fish easily identified by their big, fleshy lips. The family is a large one with 120 species found around the world in tropical and temperate seas.

Juvenile sweetlips generally look quite different from the adults, and often live solitary lives on shallower reef sections. During our fish surveys on the house reef of Gili Lankanfushi here in the Maldives, this particular individual caught our attention.

Plectorhinchus vittatus Juvenile Indian Ocean oriental sweetlips - Plectorhinchus vittatus
Juvenile Indian Ocean oriental sweetlips, Plectorhinchus vittatus.

This species of sweetlips is native to the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific Ocean and juveniles display a striking contrast of black, white, yellow and red. As the fish develops, these patterns and colors will change into the horizontal black and white striped body of the adult.

Adult Indian Ocean oriental sweetlips - Plectorhinchus vittatus Plectorhinchus vittatus
Adult Indian Ocean oriental sweetlips, Plectorhinchus vittatus.

Many species of sweetlips go through these dramatic color changes during growth. Juveniles are often boldly spotted or striped, whilst adults are usually plain with spots or have more and thinner lines. Some juveniles even have especially long tails and swim by undulating their body sideways, giving the impression of a swimming flatworm.

Juvenile Harlequin Sweetlips, Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides
Juvenile Harlequin Sweetlips, Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides.

Photos by Stefan Andrews.

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