It’s hard to decide which of the colorful parrot fish’s many unique characteristics is most remarkable.
There’s its diet, which consists primarily of algae extracted from chunks of coral ripped from a reef. The coral is pulverized with grinding teeth in the fishes’ throats in order to get to the algae-filled polyps inside. Much of the sand in the parrot fish’s range is actually the ground-up, undigested coral they excrete.
There’s its gender, which they can change repeatedly throughout their lives, and their coloration and patterns, which are a classification nightmare, varying greatly, even between the males, females, and juveniles of the same species.
Did you know? Some male parrot fish maintain harems of females. If the dominant male dies, one of the females will change gender and color and become the dominant male!!!
Finally, there are the pajamas. Every night, certain species of parrot fish envelope themselves in a transparent cocoon made of mucous secreted from an organ on their head. Scientists think the cocoon masks their scent, making them harder for nocturnal predators, like moray eels, to find.
Pucker up to the Red-Lipped Batfish! 😉 As you can see – Batfish are not good swimmers- they use their pectoral fins to “walk” on the ocean floor. When the batfish reaches adulthood, its dorsal fin becomes a single spine-like projection that lures prey.
Masters of disguise bottom-dwellers, scorpion fish use cryptic coloring, specialized appendages and textured skin to help them hide from predators and surprise prey. What happens when its cover is blown? The fish uses its highly venomous dorsal spines in a lightning-quick attack.
Scorpion fishes have large, heavily ridged and spined heads. Venomous spines on their back and fins with a groove and venom sack. Well camouflaged with tassels, warts and colored specks. Some scorpion fishes can change their color to better match their surroundings. At least one species of Scorpion Fish has a dorsal fin that looks like a small swimming fish. – it uses this specialized appendage as bait to lure prey. This fish is a master of disguise and deception, it looks like a piece of coral or sand covered rock. Thus he can blend in with its surroundings and go unnoticed by its prey. Some species sway their bodies from side to side so they look like a piece of seaweed or debris.
They feed on crustaceans, cephalopods and smaller fish using “a lie-in-wait” strategy, remaining stationary and snapping prey that comes near. With their mouth they create a vacuum and suck prey in during a nearly imperceptible split-second movement (15 milliseconds).
Scorpionfishes are not aggressive, but if threatened they will erect their dorsal spines. If danger continues they flee, usually very fast but only for a short distance and then quickly settle back and freeze. The stonefishes for example ususally bury themselves in sand or rubble using a shoveling motion of their pectoral fins. In a matter of less than 10 seconds only the dorsal portion of the head remains exposed, some sand is thrown on top to further enhancing concealment. Some species like the devilfish have very bright red and yellow colors on the inner surface of their pectoral fins. Those colors are not visible when resting but are flashed if threatened.
MOLA MOLA (aka: Ocean Sunfish)
As gigantic as the ocean sunfish can be, it still seems like only half a fish.
Sunfish, or mola, develop their truncated, bullet-like shape because the back fin which they are born with simply never grows. Instead, it folds into itself as the enormous creature matures, creating a rounded rudder called a clavus. Mola in Latin means “millstone” and describes the ocean sunfish’s somewhat circular shape. They are a silvery color and have a rough skin texture.
The mola are the heaviest of all the bony fish, with large specimens reaching 14 feet and weighing nearly 5,000 pounds. Sharks and rays can be heavier, but they’re cartilaginous fish.
Mola are found in temperate and tropical oceans around the world. They are frequently seen basking in the sun near the surface and are often mistaken for sharks when their huge dorsal fins emerge above the water. Their teeth are fused into a beak-like structure, and they are unable to fully close their relatively small mouths.
Ocean sunfish can become so infested with skin parasites, they will often invite small fish or even birds to feast on the pesky critters. They will even breach the surface up to 10 feet (3 meters) in the air and land with a splash in an attempt to shake the parasites.
They are clumsy swimmers, waggling their large dorsal and anal fins to move and steering with their clavus. Their food of choice is jellyfish, though they will eat small fish and huge amounts of zooplankton and algae as well. They are harmless to people, but can be very curious and will often approach divers.
Their population is considered stable, though they frequently get snagged in drift gill nets and can suffocate on sea trash, like plastic bags, which resemble jellyfish.
Watch this video of Marine biologist Tierney Thys. She steps into the water to visit the world of the Mola mola, or giant ocean sunfish. Basking, eating jellyfish and getting massages, this behemoth offers clues to life in the open sea.