The Bumphead Parrotfish or Bolbometopon muricatumis both amazing and beautful. This is the largest of all the parrotfish family – which is known for colorful displays and strange lifestyles already.
The Bumpheads can grow as large as 1.3 Meters (4 1/2 Feet) and weigh as much as 80 Kilos (180 pounds). They are quite impressive and very exciting to watch. They have the very unusual shape to their heads (it is theorized) as they will use it to ram coral communities to make dining easier?! I’ve never seen this, but their heads look like they’ve had a bit of abuse, so it could very be true.
The other really amusing feature of the bumpheads are their teeth. They have what appears to be a huge beak sticking out. It is in fact a fused tooth that is so thick it can scrap and crush coral colonies. It looks very funny and is kind of intimidating at first. Once you realize they are not only harmless but quite timid you’re attitude changes.
They are also quite peculiar in that they are hermaphroditic – they change sex. They are usually seprated by colors – the juveniles (found in shallows) and females are drab and the males are very brightly colored and vibrant.
As they are very slow to mature and reproduce, they are quite susceptible to diminishing populations or even extinction due to environmental or more realistically – human interference. They are very popular in the Aquarium trade and the Mock reefs of restaurants and resorts
They sleep in shallow areas and often in cracks and nooks in the reef that are often too small for them. Thus they are easily captured for aquariums or spearfished for meat.
Their role in the reef is amazing. Parrotfish are one of the primary sources of sand! They scrape algae off with their teeth, and whatever else gets in, they digest the food, and deposit sand. In most areas where the Bumpheads live, they play an integral role in controlling algae growth. Off the Dominican Republic there were large numbers of Parrotfish and living corals until the mid-80’s. Then, after all other species were fished out, the Parrotfish (Not Bumpheads in this case) were taken in huge numbers. Very soon after the coral was all dead as there was no growth control on the algae. Now imagine when these are the size of humans and eat nearly 3 tonnes of algae a year!
(While they are not list as Endangered they are listed as threatened. In many areas of the world they are extinct. )
They are also quite peculiar in that they are hermaphroditic – they change sex. They are usually seperated by colors – the juveniles (found in shallows) and females are drab and the males are very brightly colored and vibrant.
While we do have them on The Similans – they are not common. Most frequently they are found at Shark Fin Reef and Boulder City. They are spotted at other sites, but not with the frequency one would hope.
So when you do see one, prepare for a giggle and a memory. You can also do your part in preventing their decline by asking what exactly the fish you are eating is – any kind of parrotfish is bad. They are also not that good an eating fish. Also avoid any of the farm raised shrimps and prawns as their feed is purely bycatch from trawlers – which destroys the habitats.