Life History



Coral Reefs


Study Site






Works Cited

A Terminal Phase Male Rainbow parrotfish (Image from

Taxonomy of the Rainbow Parrotfish (ITIS Report, 2004)

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)

Phylum: Chordata (Chordates)

Subphylum: Vertebrata (Vertebrates)

Superclass: Osteichthyes (Bony Fishes)

Class: Actinopterygii (Ray-Finned Fishes)

Order: Perciformes (Perch-Like Fishes)

Suborder: Labroidei (Parrotfishes, Rainbowfishes, Wrasses)

Family: Scaridae (Parrotfishes)

Genus: Scarus

Species: guacamaia

General Life History Information

         Parrotfish in the genus Scarus are unique in the world of animals because they have the ability to change sex from females to males, this is known as protogynous hermaphrodism (Deloach, 1999). This behavior is, in fact, not uncommon among fishes. Thus, there are two types of males in the population: primary males, those that were born such, and secondary males, those that were once females. Coloration differences can be found between males and females, as well as between the two types of males. In the Rainbow Parrotfish, the initial phase males are drab in color while the terminal phase males are much more brightly colored (Arkive, 2004). A dominant terminal phase male will protect a harem of females, yet if that male should die, the largest and most dominant female will become a male and take control of the harem (Steelman et al, 2002). Rainbow Parrotfish are the largest of the Parrotfishes with the males reaching up to 1.2 meters long and weighing up to 20 kilograms (Arkive, 2004).

            The depth range of Rainbow Parrotfish is from about three meters to about 25 meters deep. It occurs amongst coral reefs in the Western Atlantic in both Florida and Bermuda, and from the Bahamas to Argentina, but it is not found in the Gulf of Mexico. The juveniles are common in mangrove habitats adjacent to coral reefs where they are mainly free from predators and in food-rich areas. At night adults have been observed to hide in crevices (Arkive, 2004).

            The Rainbow Parrotfish has been listed as globally vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This is mainly due to loss of both mangrove and coral reef habitats (Arkive, 2004). By acting now to save endangered and threatened species, and to reduce practices harmful to the delicate reef ecosystem and mangrove habitats we can help to prevent the loss of the Rainbow Parrotfish.


What the ocean could look like if we don't act to preserve marine life...