Blue Parrotfish, Scarus coeruleus
The Blue Parrotfish, Scarus coeruleus, whose common Spanish name is loro azul, is a species in the Parrotfish or Scaridae Family, known collectively as loros or pericos in Mexico. Globally, there are sixty four species in the genus Scarus, ten of which are found in Mexican waters, six in the Atlantic and four in the Pacific.
The Blue Parrotfish are the second largest Parrotfish in the Caribbean. They have elongated oval somewhat compressed bodies. Juveniles are pale blue with yellow anal, dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins and have square heads. Initial Phase (IP) females are various shades of blue and have a yellow spot on top of their conical head. Terminal Phase (TP) males range in color from powder blue to deep blue and blue-green with a broad gray area on their cheeks; they have a square head with a strong hump on top of their snout. Their teeth are fused into a beak with two broad joined plates on each jaw. Their top jaw overlaps the lower jaw at the front forming a protruding snout. They have one or two canine teeth on the rear side of their top jaw. Their anal fin has three spines and nine rays; their caudal fin is rounded in juveniles and concave with elongated lobes in mature adults; and their dorsal fin is continuous without a notch and with nine spines and ten rays. They have 31 to 50 gill rakers. Their lateral line has two sections and their body is covered with large smooth scales.
The Blue Parrotfish are a shallow water coastal species found in tropical and subtropical areas of the Caribbean at depths between 10 and 80 feet. Juveniles inhabit turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) beds and mangroves and adults inhabit coral reefs and rubble flats. They reach a maximum length of 1.20 meters (3 feet 11 inches). They are daytime foragers spending 80% of their time in search of food and primarily scraping algae and small organisms off rocks. They are protogynous hermaphrodites with spawning occurring in large aggregations. Externally fertilized eggs are pelagic but quickly settle to the bottom and hatch within 24 hours.
In Mexican waters the Blue Parrotfish are found in all waters of the Atlantic, however they are less abundant in the northern parts of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Blue Parrotfish is the only Parrotfish with a uniform blue color and therefore cannot be confused with any other species.
The Blue Parrotfish have historically been an important food fish throughout the Caribbean being harvested by subsistence and commercial fishermen using nets and traps. They are known to contain Cigua Toxin. Their populations are currently stable in most areas, however, loss of habitat (coral reefs and mangroves) and overfishing make their long-term survival of concern. At present they are considered of Least Concern but will most likely be reclassified as Near Threatened within the next ten years.
Blue Parrotfish, Scarus coeruleus, juvenile. Fish caught from coastal waters off Key Largo, Florida, December 2013. Length: 26 cm (10 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL.
Blue Parrotfish, Scarus coeruleus, initial phase (IP) female. Fish caught off the Channel 5 Bridge (MM 71.4), Florida Keys, Florida, December 2015. Length: 28 cm (11 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Blue Parrotfish, Scarus coeruleus, initial phase (IP) female. Fish caught from coastal waters off Key Largo, Florida, December 2013. Length: 30 cm (12 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL.