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Author: (Linnaeus, 1758)

Xyrichthys novacula (Linnaeus, 1758)

Diagnosis: body and head deep and strongly laterally flattened. Head profile almost vertical. Head higher than long, its length less than body depth. Mouth rather small, set very low. Preoperculum edge smooth. Teeth (10-17/10-14) with strong, curved, canine-like ones in front. Snout with 6-7 pores. Dorsal finrays IX-X + 11-12; anal finrays III + 11-13. Scales large and thin; none on base of dorsal and anal fins, nor on head, except some minute on upper parts of cheek and gill cover. Lateral line interrupted on middle of caudal peduncle. Scales along lateral line 24-29; above lateral line 2-3 rows of scales. Gill arch with 18 lanceolate rakers. Vertebrae 23-25. Colour: sexual dimorphism. Males: vivid red or greenish, belly brilliant pink-greenish. Females and young: pink-reddish or pale brownish. Many bluish, narrow, vertical stripes on body and head. Size: to 30 cm SL.

Habitat: littoral, on sandy or muddy bottoms, sometimes in eel-grass beds, 150 m, deeper in winter. Behaviour: burying rapidly in the bottom. Food: small invertebrates. Reproduction: late summer. Sex reversal from female to male. Age and growth: to 7-8 years. When 2 years old: 14 cm. When 5 years old: 21 cm (off Spain).

Distribution: in Mediterranean and from Portugal southwards. Elsewhere, along coast of West Africa to Cape Lopez and in tropical West Atlantic.

Eggs, larvae and young stages. Sparta, 1936: 3, fig. 1-8; 1956: 591, fig. 469-472.
Otoliths (sagitta). Chaine, 1942: 110, pl. 5 | Bauzá-Rullán, 1954: 64, pl. 10 (fig. 4 9); 1957: 14, pl. 3 (fig. 52-59).

Cleaver wrasse (Xyrichthys novacula)