Wild Fact #358 – Polly Want a Coral? – Parrotfish

Parrotfish Facts

Photo by Leonard Low (Wikimedia)

We started the week learning about one of the most popular fish species, the Goldfish, and today we are heading back to the water to learn about one of the most fascinating fish you will ever come across. There is nothing normal about the beautifully coloured Parrotfish as they have been known to change their shape, colour and even gender throughout their life. I don’t know about you but I think that is a pretty unique skill. To discover these interesting fish, you will need to take up snorkelling as they are typically found in shallow portions of tropical and sub-tropical oceans throughout the world.

The Most In-Decisive Fish

The Parrotfish exhibits so many bizarre qualities that I am not sure which one to start with. I guess we will start with their colour and gender changes. Believe it or not, this particular fish will actually change their gender throughout their life. Typically, these fish will begin their lives as a female before converting to a male as they reach adulthood. Naturally, there are a few species that don’t follow these rules as they will change genders during their immature stage, while other species don’t change their gender at all. Interestingly enough, the colour and pattern of each phase (female, male and juvenile) all vary greatly, which means an individual fish will change colours several times throughout their life. This must be a nightmare for those poor scientists that have to try and classify these fish.

Parrotfish Facts

Photo by Nhobgood (Wikimedia)

World’s Most Disgusting Pyjamas

Although I could easily continue talking about the complex lifecycle of the Parrotfish, I think it is best if we move onto their bed-time habits. Yes, this is oddity #2! Some species of Parrotfish will actually encase themselves with a thin mucus cocoon before heading to bed. They use an organ on their head to excrete this bizarre blanket and it is believed that this cocoon eliminates the scent of the Parrotfish. This would be a pretty intelligent strategy to protect them from predators, such as the moray eel, while they sleep.

Destructive Herbivores

The final oddity we will discuss today is their eating habits. Technically the Parrotfish is a herbivore that feeds on the algae located inside the abundant coral reefs. Typically the Parrotfish will rip chunks of coral out and extract the algae by crushing the hard coral to a dust using their powerful grinding teeth located in their throat. As a result, the sand that is settled on the ocean floor around these destructive fish is usually the remnants of their lunch….ground up coral.

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