Queen parrotfish

Creature Feature – Queen Parrotfish

This week is the letter ‘Q’, and today’s featured creature is the Queen Parrotfish. 

The queen parrotfish is a colourful coral reef dwelling species, famous for it’s unmistakable beak.

Queen parrotfish

Taxonomy

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Order: Labriformes

Family: Scaridae

Genus: Scarus

Queen Parrotfish Fact File

? Size: Individuals can reach a length of 1.2m and weigh up to 20kg

? Distribution: This species is native to the tropical West Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the southern Gulf of Mexico

? Diet: Primarily herbivorous, they use their ‘beak’, which is comprised of fused teeth, to scrape plants and algae from the reef surface. Sometimes, this results in ingesting of corals and other animals as well. Through their feeding strategies, parrotfishes create much of the sand around a reef. Upon eating some species of calcareous algae (i.e., algae with a hard skeleton), parrotfishes digest the soft parts and pass the hard parts, which essentially take the form of sand

? Behaviour: Individuals of this species are born female and at some point in their lifespan change sex to male. One big brightly coloured male will defend a harem of smaller, duller females and supply all the sperm needed to fertilise their eggs. At night, the queen parrotfish secretes a mucus cocoon in which it sleeps. This acts to isolate the scent of the parrotfish, making it less vulnerable to predators

? IUCN Status: Least Concern. Parrotfish are important species. Through their constant grazing, queen parrotfish serve an important ecological function on coral reefs. By removing algae, they open up space on hard surfaces for corals to attach and grow. Fortunately, a recent study conducted for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ found that 86% of the populations of parrotfish and surgeonfish face a low risk of extinction globally