Parrotfish are colorful fish. They live around coral reefs. Parrotfish get their name from the way their teeth are shaped. Their teeth resemble the beak of a parrot.
Parrotfish eat algae found on the surface of the rocks. They also use their teeth to bite small pieces of coral to get to the soft coral polyps that grow on the corals surface. These organisms live in colonies containing more than one hundred polyps connected to one another. Inside the polyp cells are single-celled algae called zooxanthellae. These Zooxanthelae cells are what the Parrotfish are hunting when they eat coral bits. If the parrotfish eats some of the coral it is ground by the crushing movement of special teeth that are in their throats. These grinding teeth are called pharyngeal mill. The crushed items are digested and the waste is returned to the reef as white coral sand. Some fish return to the same place to deposit this sandy material that become small hills of sand. By estimate Parrotfish can deposit as much as one ton of coral sand per acre of reef every year.
Parrotfish live in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Caribbean and other tropical seas. There are around 80 kinds of parrotfish. The different types can be recognized by how their upper and lower teeth meet.
Two common types of Parrotfish are the Scarus and Sparisoma. Scarus, have the teeth that look most like a parrots beak. Their upper teeth stick out to cover the lower teeth. Scarus can be as long as four feet. They are bright and colorful and swim in schools. They can be found in the Atlantic and even Mediterranean Sea.
The upper teeth of the Sparisoma fit into their lower teeth. These are smaller fish usually less than one foot in length. They are not as colorful as Scarus and come in shades of red, brown and gray. Sparisoma are found in the Caribbean Sea.
Two smaller types of Parrotfish, known as Cryptotomus and Nicholsina, are shaped like tubes and do not have overlapping teeth. Their teeth are more separate and are not fused together like a beak.
Most Parrotfish have large thick scales. Some types of Parrotfish scales are large enough to stop a spear. Their scales are used to decorate baskets and shellflower arrangements. Some Parrotfish in the Caribbean are eaten. In Hawaii they are called ohu, palukaluka and lauia and are eaten raw.
At night parrotfish sleep on the reef bottom. Some bury in the sand and cover themselves with something called a mucus cocoon. It takes about 30 minutes to secret the cacoon and it seems to keep other animals like their enemy, the moray eel, from smelling the parrotfish.
Parrotfish can produce eggs (spawn) all year long. Eggs are more plentifully produced during the summer months however. Some parrotfish move to certain areas to spawn, usually in the deeper parts of the reef. After spawning the fish return to the shallow water at night. After being fertilized eggs take 25 hours to hatch. The small parrotfish larvae are very small. They are only 1.7mm long and have no eyes, color or mouth. Their mouth forms about 3 days after hatching.
|Home||Sea Plants||Sea Animals||Biographies||Guestbook||Message board|