The parrotfishes are a genus within the family Scaridae, commonly known as “wrasses”, and comprise around 90 species. They are small tropical reef fishes, most being less than 30 cm long. These fish feed mainly on crustaceans such as crabs, shrimps, prawns and amphipods, and some species supplement their diet with algae and molluscs. Most species live in coral reefs, although some are found in estuaries and coastal waters. Some species are commercially important; others are used as food.
Parrotfishes belong to the subfamily Labroidei, part of the larger Perciformes order, along with groupers, snappers, wrasses, butterflyfishes, surgeonfishes, angelfish, damselfishes, pomacentrids, dottybacks, gobies, blennies, cichlids and tetras. They form one of the most diverse families among marine fishes, containing over 500 recognized species. Most species inhabit tropical waters worldwide, although some live in temperate waters around Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, Hawaii, Florida, Bermuda, Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago, Cuba, Turks & Caicos Islands, and the Caribbean Sea. Some species are found in brackish water environments; others are euryhaline, living both in saltwater and freshwater habitats. Many parrotfish are important food sources for commercial fisheries.
The name “parrotfish” derives from the resemblance of their large mouths to those of birds of prey. This is due to the fact that many labrid genera, such as the genus Chaetodon, have evolved specialized teeth adapted for crushing hard shells, like those of crabs and lobsters. In contrast, other labroid genera, such as Scarus and Dasyatis, have developed enlarged lower jaws, which resemble those of parrots. These features led early naturalists to describe these fishes as “birds’ feet”, “bird-like”, “penguin-faced”, and even “sea parrots”.
Life cycle and age of Parrotfish
Cetoscarus bicolor was described by Rüppell in 1829 under the name Pterapogon pulchellus. He named it based on the coloration of its body. This fish lives throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Its diet consists of shrimp, crabs, worms, mollusks, small fishes, etc. They are found in coral reefs, lagoons and estuaries. They live up to 30 years.
They reproduce sexually. Males attract females with their bright colors. Females lay eggs on hard surfaces such as rocks, shells, corals, etc. Eggs hatch within 4 days. Larvae feed on plankton. After about 3 months, they become juvenile fish. Juveniles grow rapidly. During this stage, they eat algae and zooplankton. When they reach 2 cm long, they start feeding on invertebrates like crustaceans and mollusks. Then, they begin eating adult fish. At 5–6 cm long, they start reproducing.
The average lifespan of this fish is around 20 years.
The Parrotfish Family, Labridae, includes about 200 species of marine fishes found worldwide. They are characterized by having a large head, long dorsal fins and pectoral fins, and small pelvic fins. Most species swim slowly, some are bottom dwellers, and others live among coral reefs. Many species eat algae, plankton, worms, crustaceans, mollusks, and even fish eggs. They often form schools, especially near shore. All members of the family are carnivorous; many feed on crabs, shrimp, squid, octopus, cuttlefish, and other benthic invertebrates.
The name “parrotfish” comes from the appearance of the adult males’ throat pouch, which looks like a parakeet’s beak. This pouch contains venomous stinging cells called nematocysts, which are used to capture prey. The females lack such a pouch, and do not sting.
The Parrotfish family is part of the larger Order Perciformes, which includes most of the perch-like fishes, including trout, salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, smelts and eels. Other families within the Order Perciformes include the Plectognathidae, Sciaenidae, Haemulidae, Mullidae, Serranidae, Tetraodontidae, Triglidae, and Zoarcidae.
The Parrotfishes are placed in the suborder Scorpaenoidei, along with the scads, scorpionfishes, and porcupinefishes. Within the suborder Scorpaenioidei, the Parrotfishes belong to the superfamily Scarinoidea, one of six superfamilies in the suborder Scorpanoida.
In the scientific classification system, the Parrotfish family belongs to the subphylum Vertebrata, class Actinopterygii, order Perciformes, subclass Scombridae, subtribe Scarinae, genus Labrus, and infraclass Holostei.
According to Fish Base, the Parrotfish Family consists of three genera, 15 species, and four subspecies. There are five recognized subgenera, and each of those subgenera contain several species.
The parrotfish are among the most abundant fish species in tropical waters around the world. They’re found throughout the Indo-Pacific region, including off the coast of Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Guinea, Samoa, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Vanuatu, Vietnam and Western Pacific islands like Fiji, Guam, Hawaii, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Wallis & Futuna and Yap.
They eat mostly small crustaceans such as shrimp, crabs, prawns and krill, along with mollusks, worms, sea cucumbers, jellyfish and even some plants. But their primary food source is tiny pieces of coral that grow on reefs and outcroppings. Parrotfishes dig into the coral with their sharp, needle-like teeth, breaking it up and scraping away the soft tissue and algae within. The coral is then chewed up further by the parrotfish’s powerful throat muscles. The process takes about 20 minutes per mouthful.
Once the parrotfish has finished eating, it expels the remaining bits of coral and passes them along to another parrotfish. This cycle continues until there’s nothing left to expel, and the parrotfish dies.
Coloring and Sex of Parrotfish
The world of animal camouflage is a complicated one. Coloration varies widely within a single species; some animals go about their daily affairs completely camouflaged while others stand out like neon signs. Some species use elaborate patterns to communicate with each other, while others blend into the background without making a sound. And it gets even more complex when you consider sexual dimorphism, where males and females look different.
But what do we really know about how coloration and patterning evolved across the tree of life? How does it vary among closely related species? What makes certain animals stand out against the backdrop of their environment? These questions are especially important when considering the diversity of colors and patterns found in nature.
In our latest video, we explore the evolution of coloration and patterning in animals, from fish to birds to mammals. We begin with the basics of color vision, including why it works the way it does, and then move on to the differences between male and female animals, and how those differences affect their appearance. From there, we take a closer look at the evolution of camouflage in animals, focusing on the role of both natural selection and sexual selection in shaping coloration and patterning. Finally, we examine the ways in which animals use coloration and patterning to communicate with each other.
Population of Parrotfish
The population of the common reef fish known as the wrasse is declining due to overfishing and habitat destruction. However, there are some signs of hope as scientists report that captive breeding programs could help save the species.
Evolutionary History of Parrotfish
There are nearly 1,000 species of parrotfish worldwide, but they all share a common ancestor and have been around for millions of years. New research suggests that these ancient ancestors may have looked very different than they do today.
How Do Animals Camouflage Themselves?
Animals can be seen using many different methods to hide themselves from predators. One of the most effective strategies is mimicry, where an animal looks like something else less conspicuous. Mimicry comes in several forms: Batesian mimicry, Müllerian mimicry, and Schlegelian mimicry.
Parrotfish Fast Facts
The scarid family includes some of the most beautiful fish in the world. They are known for their bright colors, including red, orange, yellow, white, blue, green, black, purple, pink and brown. These colorful parrotfishes live in warm waters around coral reefs. Parrotfishes feed primarily on invertebrates such as shrimp, crabs, worms, mollusks and small fishes. This group of fish is one of the fastest growing groups of reef fish.
Scarids are often found in pairs, trios or larger schools. Most species have specific territories where they spend much of their lives. Some species even build burrows and hideaways in caves or under ledges. Males defend territories against intruders. Females lay eggs and guard the nest until the young hatch. After hatching, both parents take care of the young.
Male parrotfish develop elaborate courtship displays. The males will swim slowly through the water while waving their fins above the surface. When females approach, the male will chase them away. If the female accepts his advances, he will follow her back to her hiding place. He will also perform a series of acrobatic leaps and spins before finally releasing sperm into her cloaca.
Female parrotfish are usually smaller than males. They tend to prefer more open habitats, and are rarely found in caves or crevices. A few species are territorial, defending a territory from other males. Others are not aggressive and will allow other males to join their group.
Female parrotfish carry eggs in special pouches on their abdomens. Each pouch contains about 100 eggs. The eggs are fertilized externally by the male’s sperm. The developing embryos are nourished by yolk sacs. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae remain attached to the mother’s body until they reach maturity.
In this episode of Animal Wonders, we investigate the evolutionary history of coloration and pattern in animals. We start with the basics of color perception, including what makes certain colors appear brighter or darker. Then we look at how animals use camouflage to avoid being eaten. Finally, we explore why some animals change color when threatened.