Midnight Parrotfish, Scarus coelestinus
The Midnight Parrotfish, Scarus coelestinus, whose common Spanish name is loro de medianoche, is a species in the Parrotfish or Scaridae Family, known collectively as loros or pericos in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Nightowl Parrot. Globally, there are 64 species in the genus Scarus, of which ten are found in Mexican waters, six in the Atlantic and four in the Pacific.
The Midnight Parrotfish have elongated, oval, and somewhat compressed bodies. They are uniquely colored with a bright blue background and large scales with black trim. Unlike most other parrotfish, juveniles, males, and females are all similarly colored. Part of their head is black while other parts are bright blue. They have a blue bar between their eyes. Their teeth are blue-green and 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 “W”-shaped with elongated lobes; their dorsal fin is continuous without a notch and has nine spines and ten rays. They have 12 to 13 gill rakers. Their lateral line has two sections. They are covered with large smooth scales.
The Midnight Parrotfish are a shallow water coastal species found in tropical and subtropical areas of the Caribbean at depths between 10 and 250 feet. They inhabit coral reefs and rubble flats and can be found in schools. They reach a maximum length of 77 cm (2 feet 6 inches) and weight of 7.0 kg (15.4 pounds) and are the third largest parrotfish in the Caribbean. 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. They are exceedingly rare and poorly studied and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican water the Midnight Parrotfish are found in all waters of the Atlantic.
Due to its unique coloration the Midnight Parrotfish is not easily confused with any other species. It is similar in size and body shape with the Blue Parrotfish, Scarus coeruleus (uniform bright blue coloration) and the Rainbow Parrotfish, Scarus guacamaia (bronze head and tail).
The Midnight Parrotfish are an esteemed food fish. They are caught by artisanal and commercial fishermen and are marketed fresh and salted, but are of minor commercial importance due to their rarity and the fact that they contain Cigua Toxin. They are also a very small component of the aquarium trade. From a conservation perspective they are currently classified as Data Deficient, although the general consensus is that their populations are in decline. Loss of coral reef habitats and overfishing make their long-term survival of concern.
Midnight Parrotfish, Scarus coelestinus. Fish caught off the Channel 5 Bridge (MM 71.4), Florida Keys, Florida, February 2017. Length: 40 cm (16 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Midnight Parrotfish, Scarus coelestinus. Fish caught off the Channel 5 Bridge (MM 71.4), Florida Keys, FL, January 2017. Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Josh Leisen (lifelistfishing.com), Gaylord, MI.