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Seaweek 2010: Oceans of Life - ours to explore; ours to restore


• Parrotfish are so-called because of their vibrant colours and strong beak-like teeth.

• They are herbivorous and use their strong beaks to scrape-off algae growing on the reef. They spend up to 80% of their time grazing for food. When doing so they also ingest inorganic matter (such as the limestone skeletons of hard coral) that they cannot digest which is expelled as fine sediment. Some parrotfish feed directly on living coral (remember they have the algae, zooxanthellae, growing inside them).

• Parrotfish are keystone animals on the reef as they check the growth of algae which competes with coral for light and space.

• Parrotfish live predominantly around the reef crest (the shallowest part of the reef) where lots of algae grow. At night they find a place to hide under rocks or inside branching corals.

• Their predators include larger carnivorous fishes such as groupers and sharks, and to makeup for being slow swimmers and very easy to see, they can form big shoals, or in the case of the bumphead parrotfish, grow to over 1m.

• Parrotfish are popular food for many human populations in the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean. If they are overfished however it can be very detrimental to the reef as algae starts to dominate outcompeting coral for space and light, eventually leading to erosion of the reef and loss of habitat.

• Reef Check Australia identify and monitor Parrotfish, including the Bumphead Parrotfish. They are the main producers of the sandy beaches that border tropical reefs as they crush and excrete coral.

Interesting Fact: Many parrotfish make sleep in a bubble of mucus which they secrete every evening to put off predators, and eat every morning.

Further links:

• Wikipedia:

• ReefED Grazing fish:

• Australian Museum online:





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