There's a bunch of skeletal features that unite this suborder, but I won't bore you with that. Instead, let's talk about protogyny. Most species in Labridae and Scaridae are protogynous, meaning that they can transition from female to male. Often there is a large male with a harem of females. When the male dies, the largest female changes to male and takes over. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective in some environments, because it helps to maximize the number of offspring produced.


By Jonas Engler (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons


By Keven Law from Los Angeles, USA (Flickr: Angel of the North [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Cichlidae: Cichlids

This is one of the largest families of fishes, containing 112 genera and more than 1300 species. One uniting feature is the presence of an interrupted lateral line, another being the fusion of the pharyngeal bones into a single structure. There is variation in body shape from rounded to high, and even more variation in the size of fins. Cichlids are famous for the vast number of species present together in African lakes, specifically Malawi, Victoria, and Tanganyika. They have been extensively studied in all aspects of their lifestyles, to better understand the evolutionary process behind speciation. Cichlids are also popular aquarium fishes.


By Donald J. Loarie (Donald J. Loarie) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Embiotocidae: Surfperches

Fishes aren't usually known for giving live birth, but you've probably already figured out that there's an exception to every rule. The surfperches are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. The male impregates the female by using the thickened end of the anal fin. Although the embryos don't have placentas, there may be some connection to the mother for nutritional support.


By Nick Hobgood (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


By Uxbona (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Pomacentridae: Damselfishes

Many snorkelers and divers are familiar with these tiny colorful fishes constantly swimming around and occasionally protecting their eggs. They often lay patches of eggs that look like colored sand, and the male is tasked with standing guard. Some damselfishes are quite famous.



By Richard Ling (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Labridae: Wrasses

This is one of the largest families of fishes, containing 68 genera with over 450 species. They are extremely colorful and come in a variety of sizes and shapes. They have jaw teeth and like to bury themselves in the sand at night.


By Richard Ling (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Odacidae: Cales

The opposite of the slingjaw wrasse, these fishes have a nonprotractile jaw. Some look similar to parrotfish, while others have a more elongate body. Siphonognathus argyrophanes is much more elongate and does not look very similar to other members, looking more similar to a trumpetfish.


By User:Rling derivative work: User:IdLoveOne (Bicolor_parrotfish.JPG) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Scaridae: Parrotfishes

This family of fishes is named because their fused teeth form a beak, attached to a nonprotractile jaw. They can be both seen and heard on coral reefs as they munch on dead coral. Much of the surrounding sand began life as parrotfish poop. Some species produce an envelope of mucus to cocoon themselves at night, probably as a predator deterrent. Parrotfish are extremely recognizable by their bright colors, which help differentiate different species from each other.