[Ocean Oasis Field Guide] Satellite image of the Baja California peninsula and Gulf of California See Spanish version

Bodianus diplotaenia
Mexican hogfish, Vieja

Hogfish, photo by Gini Kellogg  © 2000

Family: LABRIDAE (The Wrasses)


The juveniles, sub-adults, females, and dominant males are strikingly different in color and pattern. At one time this caused taxonomic problems and each color pattern was given a separate scientific name. Juveniles are bright yellow with two dark stripes along the sides. The stripes may be lacking in very small individuals. Females and sub-adults have a body shape similar to that of the juveniles. Females are usually reddish in color and tinged with yellow with two dark stripes. Dominant males are identified by the fleshy lumps on their heads, their coloration is grayish tinged with red and with a yellow bar near the mid section. The tips of all fins except the pectoral are long and filamentous. Adults from deep water (76m/250 feet) are bright red with the yellow mid-body bar. At .8 m (2.5 feet), the Mexican hogfish is the largest shallow water wrasse in the Gulf of California. It can weigh 9 kg (20 lb.)

Range and Habitat

The Mexican hogfish's range includes Isla Guadalupe and the Gulf of California to Chile. They are common around shallow reefs but they have been recorded to depths of at least 76 m. (250 ft.)

Natural History

Like other wrasses, the Mexican hogfish is diurnal and inactive during the night. Some individuals secrete a mucous cocoon that envelops the fish as it sleeps. They tend to be solitary but can form small aggregations. Hogfish feed on crustaceans, mollusks, sea urchins, and small fishes. Some juveniles act as parasite cleaners. A scene from the film, Ocean Oasis, shows an adult turning over a sea urchin, crushing it with its pharyngeal teeth, and then feeding on it.

Text by Patricia Beller
Photograph by Gini Kellogg © 2000

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