Princess Parrotfish, Scarus taeniopterus
The Princess Parrotfish, Scarus taeniopterus, whose common Spanish name is loro princesa, is a member of 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 Princess Parrotfish have elongated moderately deep bodies that are somewhat compressed. Juveniles have horizontal black and white stripes and their caudal fin has a dark margin. Females in the initial phase (IP) have yellowish fins and dark brown stripes alternating with white stripes along their back and extending down to their pectoral fin base. Males in the terminal phase (TP) are overall blue-green and orange with a broad pale yellow stripe on the front of their body and under their pectoral fins; their head has two narrow blue-green stripes that pass through the upper and lower part of the eyes; and their caudal and dorsal fins have a yellow stripe and pink, orange or yellow borders. They have a pointed head with a small non-protractile mouth that opens at the front. Their front teeth are fused into a beak with broad plates. They have one or two canines on the rear side of their top jaw. Their anal fin has 3 spines and nine rays; their caudal fin is slightly rounded; and their dorsal fin is continuous with 9 spines and 10 rays. They have 40 to 52 outer and 54 to 67 inner gill rakers. Their lateral line is broken into two sections and their body is covered with large smooth scales.
The Princess Parrotfish are found in and around coral reef and adjacent seagrass and algal bed environments at depths up to 100 feet. Juveniles inhabit turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) beds and move to coral reefs with maturity. They reach a maximum length of 30 cm (12 inches). They are primarily herbivorous that feed during the day on algae and live coral throughout the reef. They are known for making morning and evening migrations to new feeding sites. They are hermaphrodites and live in harems with a dominant male and migrate to the fringe of reefs for spawning. At night they retire into self-made slimy sleeping bags for protection against predation.
In Mexican waters the Princess Parrotfish have a limited distribution being found only in coast waters adjacent to the Yucatan Peninsula.
The Princess Parrotfish is similar in shape to several other Parrotfish and is most likely confused with the Queen Parrotfish, Scarus vetula (long pointed snout with multiple colors and patterns) and the Striped Parrotfish, Scarus iseri (mid-sized line running from snout to caudal base).
The Princess Parrotfish are considered an important food fish throughout the Caribbean. They are normally caught by commercial fishermen utilizing gill nets, pots, and traps. Current assessments indicate that their populations are stable, therefore not subject to overfishing. From a conservation perspective they are considered of Least Concern. They are also a popular aquarium fish, however, they suffer from being large and requiring substantial water volume, thus do not have long lifespans in captivity. They are available on the internet with individual fish sold between $40 and $80 based on size and availability.
Princess Parrotfish, Scarus taeniopterus, initial phase (IP), female transitioning to a terminal phase (TP), male: Fish caught out off the Anglins Pier, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Florida, February 2015. Length: 22 cm (8.7 inches). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.