Oct 12

The Remarkable Parrotfish

By Guest Blogger Author

This post was written by a guest blogger. If you would like more information from this author please contact Nadia - Nadia@ScubaDiverLife.com

By Guest Blogger Christina Albright-Mundy

Ever wonder where that glorious, sandy beach came from?

Those in the know, know that the oceans are not quiet. Peaceful, tranquil, Zen-inducing, yes — but quiet, no. And it’s not just because of the air being expelled from a regulator. Sea otters bang clam shells against rocks, whales harmone, dolphins whistle and, in warm waters teeming with coral reefs, a constant, static, crunching sound fills the water above 15 feet.

thumbnail-1

That familiar sound, which rings in the ears of every tropical and subtropical diver, is the gnashing teeth of the parrotfish, which uses a sharp beak to break off bits of coral.

Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Ample sunlight allows the zooxanthellae algae residing inside of the corals to photosynthesize, providing nutrients for coral to grow. The corals provide shelter to a multitude of fish species, juvenile octopus and moray eels. Not all of these fish seek shelter in the coral, however — the parrotfish seeks nourishment directly from the algae found within.

Parrotfish are fascinating to behold. They can live up to seven years and grow to lengths up to four feet. It is their bold coloration, along with their toothy beak, that gives them their name. But if their stunning appearance isn’t enough to impress you, know that these fish also make sand.

thumbnail-2
Parrotfish are unable to digest coral, so after they digest the algae within, they excrete the undigested coral onto the ocean floor. Think about that the next time you’re sifting for shark teeth or strolling down a moonlit beach.

These remarkable fish also have the ability to change genders. A female fish can function fully as a female, change genders, and then function as a male fish. This is known as “sequential hermaphroditism,” and it is common in the parrotfish world. Male parrotfish maintain large harems of female suitors. But in the event of a male’s death, one of the females will change become a male and assume leadership of the group.

The survival mechanism of some species of parrotfish is also remarkable. Some members of the species will form a mucous cocoon around themselves while they sleep, which scientists think is means of masking their scent from predators. Another school of thought holds that these cocoons serve as protection from parasites while the fish naps. Either way, coming upon one of these fish nestled in their mucous nests is a treat.

Currently, parrotfish are not on any watch lists as being threatened or endangered. They are, however, susceptible to the same stressors that harm endangered marine animals. Ocean acidification negatively impacts the health of coral reefs, which parrotfish rely on for a large percentage of their diet. Overfishing is another concern. While this fish is not commonly eaten, it is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world. The aquarium industry also prizes parrotfish for beautiful markings and colors; however, they typically do not thrive in an artificial environment.

Parrotfish are a keystone species, whose removal from the food chain would have far reaching consequences. Parrotfish keep algae growth in check, which can suffocate coral and reduce the coral’s ability to provide essential habitat to many marine species. And if the population of parrotfish is threatened, so too are those romantic moonlight strolls upon the world’s white, sandy beaches.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
Latest entries
Apr 23

Critter Planet

matnis

by Dustin Adamson The world is a mere speck of dust in our vast universe. That means we can't forget about the small stuff! Critter Planet was filmed in the... Read More

Apr 22

Top 10 Manta Facts

Manta ray floating underwater

Seeing manta rays is no doubt on many a diver’s bucket list. These large, acrobatic, graceful and harmless marine creatures capture the imagination and hearts of every one who has dived... Read More

Apr 21

Review – Sharkskin

1K5A4997

Are you looking for a neoprene alternative, or something light and warm to wear under your wetsuit in really chilly waters that won’t force you to add weight? I certainly... Read More

Apr 20

REASONS to DANCE: Artists United for Manta Rays

OAS_ReasonsDanceManta_cover

by  Charlie Fasano from Ocean Artist Society The house lights dim and the stage lights come on. The anticipation of the crowd that has gathered grows with the expectation of the... Read More

Apr 20

Scuba Cartoon: I Need Light

April3

How much light do you use underwater? This is the 40th of our scuba cartoon series by Jerry King. Let us know what you think and submit your own if... Read More

Apr 19

Top 7 Diving Movies

featured

There aren't that many movies that incorporate diving into the plot, and even fewer that are much good.  I assume that's because of the difficulties involved shooting the scenes, keeping... Read More

Apr 18

Diving With Less Than 20/20 Vision

contact lens with drops on blue background

For those whose eyesight requires corrective measures, the prospect of diving — a primarily visual pastime — can be a little daunting. Proper diver safety also relies on keeping a... Read More

Apr 17

5 Tips For Pro-Looking Photos From Your Compact Camera System

featuedimage

    SHOOT IN RAW MODE RAW is an uncompressed file format that captures 4000 color tones. JPEG is a compressed format with 256 color tones. Using RAW files gives... Read More

Apr 16

Review: Divespot

Divespot screenshot 2

New dive photo app for the iPhone brings weather, dive site info to your photos Divespot is a newly launched app by developer Pei Hsuan Li, allowing users to overlay... Read More

Apr 15

Shark Addicts

featuredimage

By Laura King ad·dic·tion əˈdikSHən/ noun 1. an unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something Friends Cameron Nimmo and Mickey Smith, from Jupiter, Florida,... Read More