The Parrotfish : Nature’s Conservationists Face Localized Extinction

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The parrotfish are a collection of close to 90 species of fish that are mostly focused on the Indo-Pacific region. This species is common among coral reefs and is prized for its unique colors. The fish get their name from their dental structure and the way their teeth are organized in their mouth and throat. They are quite distinct from various other species of fish in several ways.

They have several interesting behavioral traits that include enclosing themselves in a transparent layer of mucus and the sand that they excrete.

Appearance Of The Parrotfish And Their Unique Diet

The parrotfish is also known as Scaridae, its scientific name. Several species are large and reach up to a length of 4 feet. They are incredibly colorful, with patterns and hues that change throughout their lifetime as they grow. Their diversity of patterns and colors makes it difficult to classify the fish.


The parrotfish have deep bodies and blunted heads. They have even been known to reach weights up to 45 pounds (20 kilograms). The most distinct feature is their teeth. They are tightly arranged on the external surface of the jaws and resemble a beak.

The aquatic creatures use this set of teeth to scrape algae from coral and other hard surfaces. Based on their feeding habits, the parrotfish can be divided into three distinct groups, the scrapers, the browsers, and the excavators.

The excavators have large jaws and use them to scrape the surface of the corals, leaving gaping scars and leading to bio-erosion at times. Scrapers also cause scars on the surface of coral but aren’t as powerful as the excavators. The browsers feed mainly on grass and other underwater vegetation.

The blue lip is the smallest of the parrotfish and reaches only 5 inches. The largest is the green hump head that reaches lengths over 5 feet.

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Other than the algae that thrive among the corals, the unique fish also feed on zooplankton and marine weeds, while the largest of the species eats corals.

The parrotfish continually grow their teeth to replace the ones damaged and worn away by pecking at corals. The teeth inside their throat ground the food and digest its edible portion. And their excreta comes out as white sand that helps create islands and white beaches.

Habitat And Reproduction Of The Parrotfish

Parrotfish are mostly found in the tropical reefs around the major oceans. They play an incredibly important role in getting rid of sponges and seaweed from the coral. This is particularly accurate in the Australian Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast of the continent, and the world’s largest.

The parrotfish are hermaphrodites and begin their life as females and transform into males during the final, terminal phase of their life process. And their behavior and appearance change too.

Parrotfish release their eggs in the water. These are tiny and buoyant and float and finally settle on the coral where they hatch.


The lemon shark and the moray eels are the main predators of the parrotfish. To prevent them from being detected through their scent, they encase in a bubble of mucus during the night. This masks their smell from predators.

Humans are also a threat as parrotfish are consumed in some parts of the world, including Polynesia, where they are consumed raw. Global warming is also threatening the number of parrotfish.

Their Unique Feature and Quality

The teeth remain their most distinct feature. Around 1,000 teeth are lined up in around 15 rows and cemented closely together to form the beak-like structure. Worn-out teeth fall to the ocean floor while new ones grow and take their place.

Also Read: Goby Fish: This Tiny Fish Could Be The Key To The Survival Of The Coral Reefs

They naturally clean out the parasites that grow on the coral. Without their help, the coral would simply die out. Their absence allows the algae to overgrow and totally smother the coral.

And the parrotfish discharge around 100 kilograms of sand for every year that they live, while the large varieties are veritably factories producing close to a ton each year.

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