According to Wikipedia, Senator Fish was Hamilton Fish. Fish (1808 –1893) was “an American statesman and politician who served as the 16th Governor of New York, a United States Senator and United States Secretary of State. He is considered one of the best Secretaries of State in the United States’ history.”

The Senator Fish species of fish (or Senator Wrasse), Pictilabrus laticlavius, was named by Richardson in, 1839 (during Hamilton Fish’s life).

According to the Australian Museum, alternative names for the Senator Wrasse are Purple-banded Wrasse and Senator Fish.

The web page states that the “Senator Wrasse changes colour and pattern with growth. Terminal phase males are usually green with a red to purple ‘forked’ stripe on the side of the body. Initial phase fish are usually reddish to brown with a row of diffuse black spots along the back and faint bars on the lower sides. Juveniles are light red-brown to greenish with pale spots. The species grows to 30 cm in length.”

The web page describes the distribution for the Senator Wrasse as “endemic to Australia. It occurs in temperate marine waters from northern New South Wales, around the south of the country, and north to the central coast of Western Australia.”

The reason for discussing Senator Fish (or Wrasse) is that I witnessed some unusual behaviour by the species during a dive at Rapid Bay jetty in March 2015. There seemed to be more male Senator Fish than usual swimming around. They weren’t swimming in schools or large groups, but there did seem to be more than what I would normally expect to see around during a dive anywhere.

The unusual behaviour that I witnessed by them was that many of them were often rubbing their bodies in the substrate, as can be seen in these photographs:

Male Senator Fish



This really caught my eye. I had no idea why they were doing that. I don’t recall whether each of the photographs show a different fish. In each case, the fish is seen rubbing its body in the substrate, but adjacent to algal growth which appears to be at the base of a jetty pile.

Has anyone else ever witnessed this kind of behaviour by Senator Fish? Does anyone know what the reason is?

By Steve Reynolds

Steve Reynolds is the current President of MLSSA and is a long-standing member of the Society. Steve was a keen diver, underwater explorer & photographer before illness struck. He is chief author of the Society's extensive back catalogue of newsletters and journals.

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