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6 Must-Know Fascinating Facts About Colorful Parrotfish

Ever heard of a fish with a beak? That’s exactly what the aptly named Parrotfish has, though they’re actually fused teeth. These large colorful fish share a similar diet to other fish with a toothy grin, such as pufferfish, both of which use their powerful teeth to crunch through shells. So, what else is there to know about these fascinating fish? Read on to find out!

1) Parrotfish have two sets of teeth

Parrotfish are best known for the fused teeth at the front of their mouths that gives them that beak-like appearance, but they’re not the only teeth they have. Like many other fish, they have more teeth further back in their throats, called the pharyngeal teeth that are located on the roof of their throat. 

Their front teeth (also known as their beak) are actually 15 rows of 1,000 tiny teeth fused together. These teeth are made from fluorapatite, the strongest biomineral in the world. Fluorapatite is stronger than gold, copper, and silver.

2) They’re sociable fish

Parrotfish, like their namesake, like to go around in groups, and schools of around 40 parrotfish are regularly sighted. Many schools of fish will have a “supermale” that leads the group and keeps the other males in check, and these fish are identifiable by their larger size (parrotfish can reach up to 1.2m or 4ft in length!) and often brighter coloring. There are over 90 different species of parrotfish, all with different coloring.

3) They graze like herds of sheep

Parrotfish spend the majority of their time grazing like a herd of sheep across a reef eating algae and coral. In fact, new research shows that they help bleached coral regrow by grazing away algae that stunts coral growth.

4) They’re sex-fluid

Parrotfish change sex as they grow, turning from female to male over their lifetime. This process is called “protogynous hermaphroditism.” When they become males, their dull female coloring blossoms into their iconic bright colors like parrot feathers.

5) They gather under the full moon

When we think of things happening under the light of the full moon, we often think about fictional werewolf stories, but the moon has a huge real-world impact on the animal kingdom. For parrotfish, the full moon draws them together to a mating party, called “lek mating.” The males bash their heads together as they defend their territories and put on their best colors and moves when females come by.

6) They’re Not Endangered

We’ve covered many of our ocean’s beautiful creatures through our interesting facts blogs, many of which are endangered, under threat, or a protected species (such as Giant Manta Rays, Sea Turtles, or the Rose Veiled Fairy Wrasse), but we’re happy to say this is not the case with parrotfish! Parrotfish are abundant and, provided we continue to work on ways to save our coral reefs, they’ll continue thriving.