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The brown tang is a laterally compressed, deep bodied fish with a protruding snout which grows to about 40 centimetres (16 in). The head is whitish and the body pale brown shading to a dark brownish-black near the black tail. There are faint pale green longitudinal lines starting as dots at the head end and becoming continuous and then dotted again posteriorly. The juveniles are rather paler and have yellowish bars near the anterior end. They also have relatively larger dorsal fins. The adults have a white spine on the caudal peduncle. The large, sail-like dorsal fin has 4 or 5 spines and 23 to 25 soft rays. The anal fin has 3 spines and 19 to 21 soft rays. The brown tang is monogamous, though spawning has been observed both between pairs and among small groups. The male tends to be larger than the female. The fish rush up to the surface to spawn, fertilisation is external and the eggs are scattered in the water column. The larvae are planktonic for several weeks before settling and undergoing metamorphosis into juveniles.
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