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Underwater photography: images of parrotfish taken while scuba diving
Bicolour parrotfish | Bumphead parrotfish | Indian parrotfish | Redtail parrotfish | Stoplight parrotfish
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) Order: Perciformes Suborder: Labroidei Family: Scaridae
The parrotfish group includes around ninety species of fishes in the family Scaridae, although this species group is sometimes considered to be a subfamily, Scarinae, of wrasses.

Parrotfish are found in tropical and subtropical oceans throughout the world. They live on coral reefs, rocky coasts and seagrass beds and vary from 30 centimetres long to 50 or so, yet a few – like bumphead parrotfish – grow to over a metre long.

These fish are named for their toothy appearance, which mimics the beak of their feathered namesakes. They have tightly packed teeth that protrude from their jaw bones, which they use to scrape algae from coral and other rocky surfaces. This action plays a significant role in marine bioerosion, referring to natural erosion of by living creatures.

Almost all parrotfish species are hermaphrodites, starting as females (known as the initial phase) and then changing to males (the terminal phase). As always, there are exceptions to this rule – stoplight parrotfish develop directly to males while some female Mediterranean parrotfish never change sex. The juveniles of most parrotfish species are different colour from the adults and some juveniles change colour temporarily to mimic other species.

A number of parrotfish species blow a mucus cocoon from their mouth at night. This protective cocoon encapsulates the fish, presumably to hide its scent from a potential predator but it may also acts as an early warning system should a predators disturbing the membrane.

image gallery

click any image to enlarge
Int. = intermediate stage
Juv.= juvenile
Night = night colours

Some parrotfish are regarded as vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List
Parrotfish encounters
Banda, Indonesia
Karang Hatta
10 metres
Bulbometopon muricatum
Bumphead parrotfish

One of the standard dive jokes (at least in our circles) is that white sand is also known as parrotfish excrement... after all, they are renown for their continual scraping and gnawing on bits of coral rock and this image indicates what happens soon afterwards. That cloud of spray will settle onto the sea bed as lovely white sand.

Bumphead parrots are nearly always seen in large schools like this one and it's also likely that this will have been one male with a harem of females and juveniles.

This species is now considered rare globally, with local densities negatively correlated with fishing pressure across six Indo-Pacific locations, and with suspected local extinctions at some localities. (IUCN data)

french angelfish in Grenada
SPECIES NAMES | Many fish can be hard to identify as they are so similar. Common names vary and even scientists disagree on what is what. If you can name anything we can't, please get in touch.

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