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Parrotfish Build Islands with their Poop

posted: 05/14/15
by: Danny Clemens
School of parrot fish in the Solomon Islands
MikaelEriksson/Thinkstock

The parrotfish is commonly known for its beautiful blue-green color. Now, it can now add another talent to its resume: island-building.

A new study from the University of Exeter highlights the critical role that parrotfish play in building coral reef islands. Researchers found that parrotfish sediment comprises up to 85% of coral reef islands in the Maldives.

Parrotfish are equipped with specialized teeth that grind up coral; their digestive system absorbs its nutrients, and the remaining waste is excreted from the fish as a fine sand. The entire process is known as "bioerosion", and algae, sponges and sea urchins also contribute to the process in varying capacities.

"Previous research has highlighted how important parrotfish are for the general health of coral reefs, specifically because they help to control algal growth and promote coral recruitment. Our study quantifies another fascinating aspect of the species - the major role they can play in producing the sediment necessary to build and sustain reef islands," said study lead author Chris Perry.

Click here for the full news release from University of Exeter

Learn more about the coral reef:

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Coral Seas: Reef at Night
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