Axillary Wrasse ( Symphodus mediterraneus )

/ / Fish


S. mediterraneus range from reddish brown to greenish in colouration (1).  They possess a dark spot on their caudal peduncle above their arched lateral line.  In addition, they have a large head, pointed snout and prominent lips.  There is a yellow patch and dark spot at the base of their pectoral fins.  This species shows sexual dimorphism as the males differ from the females by possessing horizontal arched blue lines along their bodies as well as blue markings on their fins (2).  The males tend to be more colourful than the females (1).

There are 10 species in the Symphodus genus.  Other common Symphodus species in the Aegean Sea include S. roissali and S. cinereus.


S. mediterraneus are found in the littoral zone over bed rock and in Posidonia seagrass beds (1) (4).  They have a depth range of 1-50 m (5).

Life Cycle

S. mediterraneus males and females often form pairs.  The males build and guard nests for the females to spawn.  They have one clear seasonal spawning peak each year (4).


S. mediterraneus are found in the Mediterranean as well as the  Eastern Atlantic, from Portugal to northern Morocco (6).


S. mediterraneus is a non-migratory species.


S. mediterraneus juveniles can act as cleaner fish, when there is a shortage of other cleaner fish such as S. melanocercus.  They tend to clean Chromis chromis, S. tinca, Coris julis, A. imberbis and D. sargus (3).


S. mediterraneus feed on bryozoans, tubicolous worms, chitons, small molluscs and sea urchins (4).  

Conservation status

Not evaluated under the IUCN Redlist (7).


Description written by Nikkita Lawton (2009)

(1) Louisy P. (2002).  Symphodus mediterraneus. Guide d’indentification des Poissons Marins Europe et Mediterranee. Les Editions Eugen Ulmer. pp.145

(2) Wood, L. (2002).  Sea fishes and invertebrates of the Mediterranean Sea.  New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd. pp. 110-111

(3) Quignard, J.-P. and Pras, A. (1986). Labridae.  In P.J.P. Whitehead, M.-L. Bauchot, J.-C. Hureau, J. Nielsen and E. Tortonese (eds.) Fishes of the north-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. 2. p. 919-942.

(4) Dieter Zander, C. and Sotje, I. (2002).  Seasonal and geographical differences in cleaner fish activity in the Mediterranean Sea. Helgol Marine Research; 55: 232-241

(5) Gomon, M.F. and P. Forsyth (1990). Labridae.. In J.C. Quero, J.C. Hureau, C. Karrer, A. Post and L. Saldanha (eds.) Check-list of the fishes of the eastern tropical Atlantic (CLOFETA). Vol. 2. pp. 868-882.

(6) Fishbase. Symphodus mediterraneus. [Accessed 22 June 2009]

(7) IUCN (2009).  IUCN Red List.  [Accessed 23 June 2009]