Parrotfishes are a group of approximately ninety species of fishes traditionally regarded as a family (Scaridae), but now often considered a subfamily (Scarinae) of the wrasses. They are found in relatively shallow tropical and subtropical oceans throughout the world, displaying their largest species richness in the Indo-Pacific. They are found in coral reefs, rocky coasts and seagrass beds, and play a significant role in bioerosion.
Traditionally, the parrotfishes have been considered a family level taxon, Scaridae. Although phylogenetic and evolutionary analysis of parrotfishes is still ongoing, it is now accepted that they are a clade in the tribe Cheilini, and are now commonly referred to as scarine labrids (subfamily Scarinae, family Labridae). Some authorities have preferred to maintain the parrotfishes as a family level taxon, resulting in Labridae not being monophyletic (unless split into several families).
Parrotfish are named for their dentition, which also is distinct from that of other labrids. Their numerous teeth are arranged in a tightly packed mosaic on the external surface of the jaw bones, forming a parrot-like beak with which they rasp algae from coral and other rocky substrates (which contributes to the process of bioerosion).
Maximum sizes vary within the family, with the majority of species reaching 30–50 cm (12–20 in) in length. However, a few species reach lengths in excess of 1 m (3 ft 3 in), and the green humphead parrotfish can reach up to 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in).
A number of parrotfish species, including the queen parrotfish (Scarus vetula), secrete a mucus cocoon, particularly at night. Prior to going to sleep, some species extrude mucus from their mouths, forming a protective cocoon that envelops the fish, presumably hiding its scent from potential predators. This mucous envelope may also act as an early warning system, allowing the parrotfish to flee when it detects predators such as moray eels disturbing the protective membrane. The skin itself is covered in another mucous substance which may have antioxidant properties helpful in repairing bodily damage, or repelling parasites, in addition to providing protection from UV light.
Although they are considered to be herbivores, parrotfish eat a wide variety of reef organisms, and they are not necessarily vegetarian. Species such as the green humphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) include coral (polyps) in their diet. Their feeding activity is important for the production and distribution of coral sands in the reef biome, and can prevent algae from choking coral. The teeth grow continuously, replacing material worn away by feeding. The pharyngeal teeth grind up the coral and coralline algae the fish ingest during feeding. After they digest the rock, they excrete it as sand, helping to create small islands and the sandy beaches of the Caribbean. One parrotfish can produce 90 kilograms (200 lb) of sand each year.
Life cycle 
The development of parrotfish is complex and accompanied by a series of changes in color termed polychromatism. Almost all species are sequential hermaphrodites, starting as females (known as the initial phase) and then changing to males (the terminal phase). However, in many species, for example the stoplight parrotfish (Sparisoma viride), a number of individuals develop directly to males (i.e., they do not start as females). These directly developing males usually most resemble the initial phase, and often display a different mating strategy than the terminal phase males of the same species. A few species, for example the Mediterranean parrotfish (S. cretense), are secondary gonochorist, meaning that some females do not change sex, and the ones that do, change from female to male while still immature (i.e., reproductively functioning females do not change to males). The marbled parrotfish (Leptoscarus vaigiensis) is the only species of parrotfish known not to change sex. In most species, the initial phase is dull red, brown or grey, while the terminal phase is vividly green or blue with bright pink or yellow patches. The remarkably different terminal and initial phases were first described as separate species in several cases, but there are also some species where the phases are similar.
Feeding parrotfish of most tropical species form large schools grouped by size. Harems of several females presided over by a single male are normal in most species, the males vigorously defending their position from any challenge.
Parrotfish are pelagic spawners; they release many tiny buoyant eggs into the water, which become part of the plankton. The eggs float freely, settling into the coral until hatching.
Economic importance 
A commercial fishery exists for some of the larger tropical species, particularly in the Indo-Pacific.
Protecting parrotfish is proposed as a way of saving Caribbean coral reefs from being overgrown with seaweed.
Timeline of genera 
- Westneat, MW; Alfaro, ME (2005). "Phylogenetic relationships and evolutionary history of the reef fish family Labridae". Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 36 (2): 370–90. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.02.001. PMID 15955516.
- Streelman, J. T., Alfaro, M. E. et al. (2002). "Evolutionary History of The Parrotfishes: Biogeography, Ecomorphology, and Comparative Diversity". Evolution 56 (5): 961–971. PMID 12093031.
- Bellwood, D. R., Hoey, A. S., Choat, J. H. (2003). "Limited functional redundancy in high diversity systems: resilience and ecosystem function on coral reefs". Ecology Letters 6 (4): 281–285. doi:10.1046/j.1461-0248.2003.00432.x.
- Lokrantz, J., Nyström, Thyresson, M., M., C. Johansson (2008). "The non-linear relationship between body size and function in parrotfishes". Coral Reefs 27 (4): 967. Bibcode:2008CorRe..27..967L. doi:10.1007/s00338-008-0394-3.
- Randall, J. E. (2007). Reef and Shore Fishes of the Hawaiian Islands. ISBN 978-1-929054-03-9
- Choat, J.H. and Bellwood, D.R. (1998). Paxton, J.R. and Eschmeyer, W.N., ed. Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 209–211. ISBN 0-12-547665-5.
- Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2009). "Bolbometopon muricatum" in FishBase. December 2009 version.
- Cerny-Chipman, E. "Distribution of Ultraviolet-Absorbing Sunscreen Compounds Across the Body Surface of Two Species of Scaridae." DigitalCollections@SIT 2007. Accessed 2009-06-21.
- Langerhans, R.B. "Evolutionary consequences of predation: avoidance, escape, reproduction, and diversification." pp. 177–220 in Elewa, A.M.T. ed. Predation in organisms: a distinct phenomenon. Heidelberg, Germany, Springer-Verlag. 2007. Accessed 2009-06-21.
- Videlier, H.; Geertjes, G.J. and Videlier, J.J. (1999). "Biochemical characteristics and antibiotic properties of the mucous envelope of the queen parrotfish". Journal of Fish Biology. 54 (5): 1124–1127. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.1999.tb00864.x.
- Lieske, E., and Myers, R. (1999). Coral Reef Fishes. 2nd edition. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00481-1
- Murphy, Richard C. (2002). Coral Reefs: Cities Under The Seas. The Darwin Press, Inc. ISBN 0-87850-138-X.
- Thurman, H.V; Webber, H.H. (1984). "Chapter 12, Benthos on the Continental Shelf". Marine Biology. Charles E. Merrill Publishing. pp. 303–313. Accessed 2009-06-14.
- Bester, C. Stoplight parrotfish. Florida Museum of Natural History, Ichthyology Department. Accessed 15-12-2009
- Afonso, Pedro; Morato, Telmo; Santos, Ricardo Serrão (2008). "Spatial patterns in reproductive traits of the temperate parrotfish Sparisoma cretense". Fisheries Research 90: 92. doi:10.1016/j.fishres.2007.09.029.
- Morelle, Rebecca (1 November 2007) Parrotfish to aid reef repair. BBC
Further reading 
- Sepkoski, Jack (2002). "A compendium of fossil marine animal genera". Bulletins of American Paleontology 364: p.560. Retrieved 2011-05-18.
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