Blue Parrotfish Facts

Scientific Name: Scarus Coeruleus

blue parrotfish
Blue Parrotfish.

Simões, Zarco Perello, Moreno Mendoza / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0 International

Blue parrotfish are part of class Actinopterygii, which includes ray-finned fish. They can be found in coral reefs in the Western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Their scientific name, Scarus Coeruleus, comes from the Latin words meaning blue fish. They also get their name from their fused teeth that resemble a beak. In fact, they are part of the family Scaridae, which includes 10 genera that all share the same beak-like feature.

Fast Facts

  • Scientific Name: Scarus Coeruleus
  • Common Names: Blue parrotfish
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Basic Animal Group: Fish
  • Size: 11 to 29 inches
  • Weight: Up to 20 pounds
  • Life Span: Up to 7 years
  • Diet: Algae and coral
  • Habitat: Tropical, marine intertidal
  • Population: Unknown
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
  • Fun Fact: Parrotfish get their name from their fused teeth that resemble a beak.

Description

Blue parrotfish are blue with a yellow spot on their heads as juveniles and are solid blue as adults. They are the only species of parrotfish that are solid blue as adults. Their size ranges from 11 to 29 inches, and they can weigh up to 20 pounds. As juveniles grow, their snout bulges outward. Blue parrotfish, as well as all parrotfish, have jaws with fused teeth, giving it a beak-like appearance. They have a second set of teeth in their throats called a pharyngeal apparatus that crushes the hard rock and coral they swallow.

Habitat and Distribution

The habitat of blue parrotfish includes coral reefs in tropical waters at depths of 10 to 80 feet. They are found across the western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, as far north as Maryland, USA, and as far south as northern South America. However, they do not live in the Gulf of Mexico. They are native to Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Haiti, among other locations.

Diet and Behavior

Up to 80% of a blue parrotfish’s time can be spent looking for food, which consists of dead, algae-coated coral. Eating algae off coral reefs preserves the coral by reducing the amount of algae that could suffocate it. They grind chunks of coral off with their teeth and then break up the coral to get to the algae with their second set of teeth. The undigested coral pieces get deposited as sand in these areas. This is not only important for the environment, as they are responsible for the sandy beach formation in the Caribbean, but it is also important for blue parrotfish as this grinding controls the length of their teeth.

Blue parrotfish are daytime creatures and seek shelter during the night. They do so by secreting a mucous that masks their scent, tastes bitter, and makes them harder to find. The mucous has holes on each end to allow water to flow over the fish as it sleeps. Males can also intensify their colors to deter any threats. They move in large groups of 40 individuals, with a male leader and the rest females. The male is very aggressive, chasing intruders as far as 20 feet away from the group. If the male dies, one of the females will undergo a sex change and become an aggressive, brightly colored male.

Reproduction and Offspring

Blue Parrotfish
School of Blue Parrotfish. Jeffrey Rotman / Corbis NX / Getty Images Plus

Mating season occurs year round but peaks in the summer months from June to August. Males and females reach sexual maturity between 2 and 4 years. Females are oviparous, meaning they produce eggs that hatch in the water. During this time, they gather into large spawning groups and males and females form pairs. After they mate, the female releases the fertilized eggs into the water column. The eggs sink to the seabed and hatch after 25 hours. After hatching, these larva begin feeding 3 days later. They develop quickly and have to survive on their own from birth. Juveniles feed on turtle grass beds and eat small plants and organisms.

Conservation Status

Blue parrotfish are designated as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Bermuda has closed fishing of parrotfish for conservation, but they are still fished in other regions of the Caribbean. They are also impacted by human destruction of coral reefs by bleaching or death. Additionally, blue parrotfish are often eaten in some countries, but they can cause fish poisoning that can be deadly.

Sources

  • "Blue Parrotfish". Dallas World Aquarium, https://dwazoo.com/animal/blue-parrotfish/.
  • "Blue Parrotfish". IUCN Red List Of Threatened Species, 2012, https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/190709/17797173#assessment-information.
  • "Blue Parrotfish (Scarus Coeruleus)". Inaturalist, https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/112136-Scarus-coeruleus#Distribution_and_habitat.
  • Manswell, Kadesha. Scarus Coeruleus. The Department Of Life Sciences, 2016, pp. 1-3, https://sta.uwi.edu/fst/lifesciences/sites/default/files/lifesciences/documents/ogatt/Scarus_coeruleus%20-%20Blue%20Parrotfish.pdf.