Green Humphead Parrotfish picture used with permission

Form and Function

    The Green Humphead Parrotfish has adapted to its environment in ways to benefit its self as well as others. The term humphead refers to the large hump on the “forehead” of the fish. This hump is used for breaking off pieces of coral for their digestion (Arkive 2008). Some adaptations have occurred to make this hump harder and stronger, making it easier for the fish to break off pieces of the hard coral.  The parrotfish having genes for the hardest and strongest hump have a better chance of survival as they can acquire the most food. This is what makes them different then other oceanic species. They have adapted to eating this coral while no other organism has, therefore there is no competition for food with other organisms (Encyclopedia of Life 2009). The hump can also be used to “head butt” other parrotfish as a matter of competition for both food and mating, see video. This behavior is very similar to deer; the bucks fight for the does. Some other adaptations for the Humphead Parrotfish are their solid top teeth. They are specialized to break down the coral into digestible pieces by grinding and scraping the coral, turning it into almost like a coral paste (Encyclopedia of life 2009).

    During the night the Humphead Parrotfish stay low in shallow sandy areas or near caves (Dive the World 2013). The adult parrotfish come out in large groups during the day to feed on the coral and some algae, while the young parrotfish stay back in the grassy seabeds closer to home away from possible predators (Dive the World 2013). The Humphead Parrotfish swim around like many other fish moving their fins and tail back and forth. As they come out during the day this leaves them very vulnerable to predation.  These fish have adapted to the highly fished areas and are very skeptical around those coral reef areas (Dive the World 2013). Although they have adapted to the fishing habits, the commercial fishing has still made a huge impact on the Humphead Parrotfish. The Green Humphead Parrotfish plays an important part in the environment as they are the only organism that can consume coral (Donaldson et al. 2004). They break down the coral reefs keeping them from taking over the oceans. They keep the ecosystem in balance so there are no overpopulations. If the parrotfish did not eat the coral, it would just keep building up and have nowhere to go.  The undigested coral that the parrotfish consumes is produced out in the fish’s feces. This fecal byproduct is basically sediment which also plays an important role in the ecosystem creating a sandy bottom in the ocean (Encyclopedia of life 2009).

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