Above: If you’ve ever felt safe and warm in a sleeping-bag, you’ll know how a parrotfish feels when it tucks in for the night. It secretes a special mucous layer which encases its body as it sleeps, concealing it from predators.


There are approximately 95 species of Parrotfish, and they are some of the most colourful characters of the coral reef ecosystem. They are most distinguishable for the fusion of their teeth into a bird-like beak which gives them their name. They use these powerful jaws to grind through coral, extracting the nutrient-rich algae for food. It’s estimated that about 30 percent of coral sand is the direct bi-product of this feasting process, termed bio-erosion.

They have a complex life-cycle involving sex change. Most parrotfish species are ‘sequential hermaphrodites’, starting life as a female but turning into males as they mature. Parrotfish can also change sex depending on the availability of mates. At night, some parrot fish secrete a mucous cocoon from the glands of their skin. This forms a sort of sleeping-bag which conceals their scent from predators.