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This not-so-timid reef fish starts out as a black-and-white juvenile, then becomes more colorful as it grows to adulthood. Geographical variations occur, but in the waters of the Philippines, H. hortulanus has three golden saddles over the back, often with a black spot on the upper peduncle. The body is covered in a checkerboard or thatched pattern, while its face is green with salmon-pink streaks and spots (a pattern that is common among wrasses). They feed mainly on hard-shelled prey, including mollusks, crustaceans and sea urchin. They grow to a length of about 27cm.
Reef-associated, this species inhabits sand patches of lagoons and seaward reefs at depths of 1 to 30m. Indo-Pacific distribution.
This particular wrasse accompanied me underwater for nearly the entire dive (but left me when I went deeper). It seemed quite unafraid of me, approaching to less than an arm's length several times. (This seems to be a common behavior among certain reef fish -- especially wrasses -- around divers who poke on the sand: while we look for critters to photograph, they take the chance to discover edible goodies!) When I circled and got back to shallow waters, I think this same friendly wrasse welcomed me back. I broke open a sea urchin and it happily dove in and gulped up the pieces. It even put some spines in its mouth to get to the flesh, then spat them out again!