This past week was spent at the Keys Marine Lab (KML) and was such a blast! Everyday was spent exploring a new environment and learning about its inhabitants. One such creature was the Midnight Parrotfish, which I found particularly interesting because parrotfish are commonly known for their variety of colors; however, the Midnight Parrotfish is mostly one or two colors.
When snorkeling off of Cheeca Rocks and Looe Key we first spotted Scarus coelestinus. Though I have only witnessed this species in the keys, it can be found in marine seaward reefs from Bermuda to Venezuela. The Midnight Parrotfish generally has a blue-green beak and a blue body with black patches that grow as the fish ages. Adult male and unsexed Midnight Parrotfish are known to be 77.0 cm in length and almost completely black in color. Due to their unusually large size, they are often targeted by fishermen and are known for being the third largest species of Parrotfish in the in the Caribbean. They generally school and are known to associate with various surgeon fish, following them to scrape algae off of dead corals and rocky substrates. Unlike other Parrotfish, for example the Rainbow Parrotfish, the Midnight Parrotfish are not known consumers of both algae and corals. These fish are a diurnal species, meaning they are active during the day, and will create a mucus ‘cocoon’ at night as a form of predatory protection. One of the major threats to the Midnight Parrotfish is overfishing; though there is insufficient data on the amount of Midnight Parrotfish that remain in the wild, it is known that they are a larger species and sought out by fishermen. These fish are extremely important because of their unique diet, they allow for corals to attach and colonize without predation concerns from Midnight Parrotfish.
Though I only saw this beautiful fish a handful of times, I hope to return to the Florida Keys and more closely observe its behavior. Thank you to all at the Keys Marine Lab for taking us in and taking us out on some truly incredible trips around the Florida Keys!
|Credit: Dr. Joshua Voss|
|Credit: Joshua Voss|