Friday, 26 May 2017

Princess Parrotfish

Princess Parrotfish in its intermediate phase (female).
The Princess Parrotfish (Scarus taeniopterus), like all parrotfish, was named after the shape of their beak-like mouth and vibrant colors (Kluijver). Many parrotfish have two life stages an initial phase and terminal phase. These fish can grow up to 35cm in length (Kluijver). When the Princess Parrotfish is in its terminal phase it can be identified by its vibrant blue and green scales, pink fins, and blue stripes that extend from the snout to tail (Kluijver). The initial phase of the parrotfish’s life is as a female. As a female the Princess Parrotfish can be identified by two light brown horizontal stripes and a third dark brown horizontal line going down the side of the fish (Kluijver).
Princess Parrotfish in its terminal phase (male).
Their specialized beaks are typically used for feeding on algae found on rocks (Dr. Foster & Dr. Smith2012). They are commonly seen on coral reefs, because it provides a safe habitat and a lot of food.  I first saw one of these fish at Coffin Bay. They are commonly found in Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean making them noninvasive to the Florida Keys (Kluijver). The Princess Parrotfish is currently protected in the Bahamas where parrotfish fisheries have been permanently closed (ICU Red List). In the Caribbean the species can easily be found in protected areas (ICU Red List).  The biggest threat to the Princess Parrotfish is the loss of habitat from the                                                                               declining coral reefs (ICU Red List).

Unidentified Parrotfish protected by its mucus bubble
These fish have a very unique way to avoid predation from parasites. During the day they peacefully swim and eat, but at night, when there are no fish to peck at parasites, they secrete a mucus bubble that encases the fish’s whole body (Yong 2010). The majority of parrot fish only use 2.5% of their energy to create these protective bubbles from their gills (Yong 2010). The Princess Parrotfish is a very beautiful and very unique fish, and I am so happy I was able to swim along side it!

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