By Cheilinus undulates
As one of the largest reef fish in the world this gentle giant of a fish has endearing, roving eyes which seem to exude intelligence and human like characteristics. With no fear of divers they tend to come very close and almost pose for a picture with their huge pouting mouths.
Growing up to 2.3m they can live for up to 30 years but do not reach sexual maturity until the age of 7. This means that it is very slow to increase population and with the growth of non natural predators (in Hong Kong people pay up to $400 for its lips alone) its numbers are alarmingly decreasing.
Sometimes called the hump-head wrasse or Maori Wrasse the name Napoleon comes from its distinctive bump over the head whish is said to resemble Napoleons hat. These humps grow with age so…the larger the hump…the older the fish.
Spending their time cruising up and down reef walls looking for food, their diet consists mainly of urchins and shellfish, although they have immunity to other toxic creatures such as scorpion fish, crown of thorn starfish and puffer fish which can supplement their diet. Their strong jaws allow then to crush their food and even crunch coral to get at burrowing worms. Once full they return to their fixed cave or ledge to sleep for the night.
Starting out their lives as females Napoleons transform into males as and if necessary, little is known about what actually triggers this change which could make for some nasty early morning surprises!