Humphead Parrotfish


A school of humphead parrotfish descend on the coral reef to feed and turn the age old coral into a fine sand that, in turn, forms islands.  Finding yourself engulfed by a large school of humphead parrotfish as they nonchalantly munch their way through acres of coral reef, is an experience not easily forgotten.

Guess what humphead parrotfish use that giant hump head for? 

Until recently no one ever knew what the large bony head was for. Recently videos and observations have shown, like large horned and humpheaded four legged beasts, the male humphead parrotfish use their bony head plate to ram each other in territorial disputes. The large male green humphead parrotfish ram each other in an explosive display of power that makes a loud cracking sound underwater.

We can imagine that if the sound of shrimp clicking, clacking and snapping is saturating while diving, the sound of two large males ramming their humpheads has to be feel like a thunderous clap, maybe even a palpable shockwave.

Other common names include bumphead parrotfish, humphead parrotfish, double-headed parrotfish, buffalo parrotfish, and giant parrotfish.

The humphead is the largest of the parrotfishes growing up to 4.3ftin length and weighing up to 101lbs . They are distinguished by beak-like teeth plates only partially covered by fleshy lips. Males and females look the same in this species. The juveniles start out a greenish brown colour with 5 bands of whitish spots arrayed vertically along their body. As the adults mature they develop a pronounced bump on their vertical head profile. When fully grown they range from olive or bluish-green to slate grey, with a yellowish to pink blaze down the front of their face.

Adults are sometimes confused with the juvenile Napoleon wrasse, which can be differentiated by 2 black lines running behind its eye.

Gregarious by nature, bumphead parrotfish form shoals of 20 to 100 fish, resting in shallow, sandy lagoon flats, around caves and shipwrecks at night. During the day, the adults move to the seaward side as they scour the coral reef for food.

Fun Facts about Humphead Parrotfish:

– The Green Humphead Parrotfish is the largest of the parrotfish species

– It feeds on a diet of live corals and algae that grow on the ocean bottom, and uses its large bulbous head to ram the coral to break it into smaller, more easily digested pieces.

– Its beak-like front teeth and pharyngeal teeth at the back of the throat adeptly grind down this food, reducing the hard coral to a paste and breaking down the algae. Any hard, un-nutritious material is passed out in the fish’s feces.

– The nice, fine sand found on beaches you like to squish your feet into is actually Humphead Parrotfish poop. Adult humphead parrotfish, which are estimated to consume five to six tones of coral each year, produce substantial amounts of sediment and influence the structure of coral reefs, thus playing an important role in the coral reef ecosystem

– Humphead parrotfish aggregate to spawn at a certain time each month, often around the time of the full moon, in reef channels and passages. Spawning often takes place in early morning (2) (5), when females release eggs to be fertilized in the water by the sperm released by the male. These large spawning aggregations may consist of around 100 individuals.

– Large groups of humphead parrotfish are also found when they are sleeping. These large fish can live to an age of at least 40 years

– The humphead parrotfish, can live to almost 40 years and develops a hump on their foreheads as they mature

– Numerous humphead parrotfish are found in one particular location. They are commonly found in groups within Tropical areas (30* degrees North- 24* degrees South).- The dorsal side of the green humphead parrotfish consist of nine dorsal spines and ten dorsa soft rays. These spines and rays are used as support of the fish as well as a backbone for protection from predators.

– The humphead parrotfish also has three anal spines, nine anal soft rays, and four median pre-dorsal scales. These are on the posterior side of the fish and have different functions Research has shown that each part of the fish contains different scales an example of this would be that, the median pre-dorsal scales are different than the scales that surround the body as they are larger and have a harder surface.

The Video: A school of humphead parrotfish descend on the coral reef to feed and turn the age old coral into a fine sand that, in turn, forms islands. Fascinating video from BBC natural history show Blue Planet. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

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February 5, 2016 |

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