Parrot Sand Bass

Parrot Sand Bass, Paralabrax loro

The Parrot Sand Bass, Paralabrax loro, whose common Spanish name is cabrilla cachete amarrilo and whose local name is cabrilla and/or lora and/or zorrillo, is a species in the Sea Bass or Serranidae Family, known collectively as serranos in Mexico. Globally, there are only nine species in the genus Paralabrax, five of which are found in Mexican waters, all in the Pacific.

The Parrot Sand Basses have the traditional sand bass shaped body and are fairly easy to identify. Their head is covered with large orange spots and undulating lines. Their body is covered with numerous brown spots; the sides of their body feature seven alternating dark and light bars. A key to identification is the third dorsal spine, which is greatly elevated, about three times longer than the second spine, and only slightly longer than the fourth spine (pictured below). All fins are dark spotted with the exception of the pectoral fins, which are yellow and without spots. Their caudal fin is square.

 The Parrot Basses are found in sand adjacent to rocky structures at depths up to 220 feet. They reach a maximum 60 cm (24 inches) in length 4 kg (9 pounds) in weight. They do not undergo a mid-life sex change, however, both sexes are sexually dichromatic during spawning season; adult males have bright orange cheeks and dorsal fins and females have red cheeks and dorsal fins. They consume shrimps, crabs, octopuses, and fish.

In Mexican waters of the Parrot Sand Bass have a very limited range being found only along the coast of the mainland from the extreme northern portion of the Sea of Cortez south to Guatemala.

The Parrot Sand Bass is similar to and can be confused with the Barred Sand Bass, Paralabrax nebulifer (dark blotches covering upper two-thirds of body and tail base; third dorsal spine two and a half times longer than second spine); the Goldspotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax auroguttatus (dense orange spots covering head, body, and fins; third dorsal spine three times longer than second spine); the Kelp Bass, Paralabrax clathratus (yellow spots covering forehead; third and fourth dorsal spines of equal length); and the Spotted Sand Bass, Paralabrax maculatofasciatus (numerous black, brown, and orange spots covering body; dark bar from eye to gill cover; third dorsal spine three times longer than second spine).

The Parrot Sand Bass, although rare, is considered to be an excellent food fish when available.

Parrot Sand Bass, Paralabrax loro. Fish caught from coastal waters off Rocky Point, Sonora, March 2008. Catch and photo courtesy of Mike Auditore, Rocky Point.

Parrot Sand Bass, Paralabrax loro. Fish caught in coastal waters off Mazatlán, Sinaloa. Catch and photo courtesy of Tadeo Hernandez, Mazatlán.