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


• These fish are named for the sharp blades, one or more on either side of the tail, which are used for defence.

• Surgeonfishes feed on algae using small sharp teeth or specialised bristles designed to graze. These animals are important herbivores on the reef as they keep algae growth in-check.

• They are prey to large carnivorous fishes. When surgeonfish defend their territories, they fight by swimming backwards using their sharp blades for defence. • Some surgeonfishes have a horn like projection from their forehead, and are known as unicornfish.

• Humans consume some species of surgeonfishes (in the Indo-Pacific and the Caribbean) although care must be taken not to touch the sharp blades.

Interesting Fact: At times, large schools of surgeonfish feed collectively and intensively on algal patches and can strip the rocks bare. Like parrotfish they are also found along the reef crest where most of the algae grow.

Further links:

• Australian Museum online:

• Wikipedia:

• ReefED Grazing fish:




Surgeonfish from GBRMPA Image Collection

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