Fish of the Week: Parrotfish

Today we start our weekly series: Fish of the Week! Check back every week to learn about a new interesting aquatic species!

This week’s fish: The Parrotfish

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Have you ever walked along a warm, sandy beach and wondered where all that beautiful white sand comes from? You can thank a parrotfish! Parrotfish are a tropical species that are common in coral reefs. There are over 90 species of parrotfish and they are members of the wrasse family. This family usually has one dominant male, and when they die, a female can morph into a male and take up the dominant role.

Their main source of food is the algae that grows on and in corals. They have a sharp, parrot-like beak that allows them to nibble away at the rocky coral substrate. Hard corals have a hard calcium-carbonate exoskeleton that protects the delicate algae (zooxanthellae) inside. This algae give nutrients to the growing corals, while the corals give them a safe place to live. Parrotfish can chomp into the hard coral shell and crunch up the coral and their internal nutritional algae. The algae is digested, but the hard exoskeleton is not and comes out the other end as a fine sand. So that picturesque, sandy beach you’re walking along is nothing more than parrotfish poop.

Learn more at National Geographic’s Parrotfish site.

Want to check out one in person? Find an aquarium near you on the Association of Zoos and Aquariums website!

Interested in learning more about a particular species of fish? Check out FishBase!

Have a suggestion for fish of the week? Please e-mail ncfishvet@gmail.com

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