Vibrant colour and movement are the focus for this underwater scene depicting two different phases of the Stoplight Parrotfish. This species has a fascinating life story. Their survival, in healthy numbers, is particularly important for thriving coral reefs and even our sandy beaches.
Parrotfish have a noticeable 'beak' which is strong enough to break off little chunks of coral rock, when they are grazing for algae on the reef. The Parrotfish help to keep the reefs clean and healthy this way, but even more importantly, their digestive systems process those little chunks of coral rock (limestone) and when they come out the other end of the fish, they have become lovely white coral sand! The Parrotfish poop is responsible for a huge proportion of the sand on tropical beaches! That's quite a job and a non-stop one, given the extra sand needed to overcome environmental pressure of erosion, caused by clearing of mangroves for hotel construction, for example.
Bearing in mind the important job these parrotfish have to do, it is worth pausing to reflect on why the Stoplight Parrotfish has such a strange name. A stoplight changes from red to green, and likewise, an individual parrotfish will change from red to green during its lifetime. The gorgeous red fish in the front of the painting is a female, but by the time she gets older and larger, she will not only change to green, but also change into a male (called the superman phase), like the fish in the distance.
Here it becomes clear why it is important not to eat Parrotfish when offered them on a menu in a restaurant. Most fishermen may think that it's ok to eat mature fish because they have already produced young. But in the case of these Parrotfish, if all the large green males are fished out, there will be no males to breed with the smaller red females. You can see where that chain reaction would lead. So for the sake of our sandy beaches and defence against land erosion, choose something else from the menu and please, leave the Parrotfish in the sea!
Painted from two reference photos by Dr Dayne Buddo, UWI Marine Scientist, with kind permission.
To watch a live painting time lapse of this acrylic on paper painting, go here: