There are few species of fish, in my opinion, with a more psychedelic pastel color palate than parrotfish. They are definitely one of my favorite fish to watch just because of color alone.
Their polychromatic combinations are sure to visually ooze tropical color delights of sea-foam green, electric blue, vibrant pinks and lava oranges.
There are about 80-90 known species of parrotfish all found on tropical reefs but its difficult to classify because, they show different color patterns according to their age and sex.
1) They can change sex
The offspring are almost always females to begin with. However, some of them will change into males as time goes on exhibiting a behavior in biology as sequential hermaphroditism (when the individual changes sex at some point in its life).
In fact, some parrotfish change sex multiple times in a lifetime! Experts don’t really know what causes some to change and others not to, but it is a fascinating way for the species to be able to keep a balance of gender in the population.
Can you imagine what kind of world would we live in if humans had to change sex multiple times in a lifetime?
2) Their poop makes up most of Hawaii’s beaches
If you’ve sat on a white sand beach in Hawaii then you really sat on poop - parrotfish poop to be exact. “In fact, most of Hawaii’s white sandy beaches are actually parrotfish poop. These fish can turn 1 ton of coral into sand in a year.” The fish basically eat algae that grows on the coral, taking off small pieces in the process and since these fish do not have stomachs, their meals pass straight along the long intestine, bursting out in a cloud of sand out the backdoor. “Larger parrotfish are like sand factories, producing as much as 840 pounds of sand per year.”
3) Their bite is almost as strong as a lion’s
The cool thing is that their first set of teeth is composed of interwoven microcrystals of fluorapatite, which are among the hardest biominerals in the world. The hardness of parrotfish teeth measured near the biting surface is about 530psi (tons of pressure per square inch) - equivalent to a stack of about 88 African elephants - compressed to a square inch of space! To give a perspective, a lion’s bite is about 650psi.
Parrotfish’s second set of teeth further grinds the substrate finer. Interestingly, oysters, sponges and seaworms also produce sand, but no where as proficient as parrotfish. Makes you wonder if beaches suffering from beach erosion could be helped by the introduction of schools of hungry parrotfish and others to help generate more sand, of course assuming the corals themselves are healthy.
4) They sleep in a cocoon
The last weird fact about them is some species encapsulate themselves in a cocoon of mucus before they sleep at night. Scientists believe that this bubble might protect the fish from predators — such as eels and sharks — by masking its scent. Others suggest it might work as a protective mechanism by giving the sleeping fish a heads-up when a predator has penetrated the cocoon.”
See more of my parrotfish inspired Modern Mandala series now