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Fish #178 Ballan Wrasse Labrus bergylta ~ Alison Jackson
Wet and dry felted and embroidered.
Ballan Wrasse are the biggest common wrasse around the U.K. coastline. They are protogynous hermaphrodites, which means they are all born female and remain so for the first part of their lives. Slow growing, they reach 6in in length by 2 years and reach maturity at 6 years and almost two feet long, when half of them transform into males.
Ballan wrasse have a deep set compressed body and a large head with thick, protruding lips. Teeth tend to be rounded with age. Their long dorsal fin has an array of spines along the first half, followed by a much softer section towards the tail. As well as sharp teeth in the mouth they have teeth in their throats too. This enables them to prise molluscs and crustaceans from rocks and crush them. They feed predominately on crab, mussel, shrimp and worms. Colouration varies greatly. They can be brownish red or red with numerous small white spots. They can be green with white spots or irregular large vertical dark stripes. Young are often bright emerald green. Ballan wrasse are common off all British and Irish coasts. They are found in inshore waters amongst weed covered rocks, or in lower shore pools. They are also found in the algal zone on rocky coasts at a depth of between 5 and 30 metres.
There are no external differences between the sexes. They all start off as female and continue to feed and grow until they reach the age of 6-8 when they will be mature enough to breed. They will breed as females for many years and after this time some females will change sex and function as males, fertilising the eggs of the females. They will then grow to a larger size than the females. Females make nests of seaweed and mucus which they wedge between rocks. They defend the nest aggressively. It is here that they lay their eggs, which hatch in a few weeks. The emerging larval wrasse float away with the plankton to settle in shallow water.
Commercial value is increasing and Ballan Wrasse are now being sold to Japanese restaurants, where they are processed as sashimi. There is also a fishery for live Ballan Wrasse, which are used as cleaner fish in salmon farms.
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