By Dr Jade Maggs, Marine Scientist…
Sea goldies Pseudanthias squamipinnis are small, exquisitely coloured reef inhabitants. Males are generally bright orange with yellow sides and purple blotches on the trailing edge of the pectoral fins. Males also have a greatly elongated third dorsal spine and a reddish orange bar extending from the nose through the eye and backwards to below the origin of the pectoral fin. The featured image above, taken by Dr Camilla Floros in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (South Africa), shows the array of colours exhibited by male sea goldies. Females are bright orange and the eye has a purple ring around the top. Females have an orange bar on top of a purple bar, both running from the eye backwards towards the pectoral fin.
DISTRIBUTION: Widespread in the Indo-West Pacific, occurring in the Red Sea and east Africa across to Japan and New South Wales, Australia.
HABITAT: Juveniles may occur in tide pools, with adults usually occurring on coral and rocky reefs from about 5 m down to 40 m.
BIOLOGY: A small, shoaling species. Males attain a maximum size of 100-150 mm total length, while females attain 70 mm total length. All sea goldies are born female and some individuals turn to male – a phenomenon known as protogynous hermaphroditism. Males are territorial and form harems. Removal of the male from a harem results in the the dominant female gradually turning into a male and assuming dominance over the territory. Sea goldies feed on zooplankton in the water column, but remain close to the reef at all times.
MOVEMENT: Thought to be highly resident.
BEHAVIOUR: A very territorial species that remains within a very small home range. Will retreat rapidly into rocky or coral refuge when threatened by divers or predators.
CONSERVATION STATUS: Currently categorised as “least concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, the sea goldie is very popular as an ornamental species in the aquarium trade. Due to its behaviour of retreating into rock or coral refuges, collectors may destroy habitat or use hazardous chemicals to catch sea goldies.