Creature Feature – Bumphead parrotfish
Diving Tulamben with the bumphead parrotfish
If you have ever dived the USAT Liberty Shipwreck at Tulamben at night or early morning you would most likely encountered a bumphead parrotfish or several, as they sleep in the wreck at night.
These strange looking fish are the largest in the parrotfish family, growing up to 1.3 meters and weighing up to 46 kilos with a lifespan of up to 40 years. They are often found in big shoals making them look like a herd of cattle on a mission to be somewhere, noisily crunching the coral and excreting wafts of fine sand onto the ocean floor.
Why they look so strange is the hard bulbous lump on their forehead and their parrot like beak as thier front teeth, hence where the name bumphead parrotfish comes from.
They feed on algae and coral and use the bulbous lump to ram hard coral to break it into smaller pieces to ingest.
They are equipped with pharyngeal teeth at the back of their throat to sufficiently grind the hard coral into a digestible paste. Any indigestible elements are passed out in the fish’s faeces, creating vital sediment. As each fish consumes up to 5 tons of reef carbonates per year, they are important coral sand producers, positively affecting the resilience of the coral reef’s ecosystem. Just remember the next time you walk barefoot on the beach, you could be walking in parrotfish poo!
Occasionally preyed upon by large sharks, humans present the greatest threat to the double-headed parrotfish. They return to the same location every night to sleep in large shoals, making them extremely vulnerable to spearfishermen and netters. Luckily they have protection at Tulamben wreck because of the Divers Helpers Club, fishing is not allowed.
Want to see them for yourself? Join us on a diving fun dive day to Tulamben
Photos thanks to Uwe Jacobs