Feeding on Feces: The Nutritional Value of Fish Feces to Caribbean Parrotfishes

Parrotfishes can often be observed consuming fish feces on coral reefs. Our recent study highlights the nutritional value of these feces to parrotfishes. Four of the five most common species at our study sites (Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands) consumed feces, mostly from Chromis multilineata. Despite being infrequent (<4% total bites), we estimate that coprophagy may contribute ~27% of the carbon obtained by parrotfishes while foraging on preferred benthic substrates. Chromis feces also have higher protein and lipid contents and lower C:N:P ratios than other foraging targets (algae and cyanobacteria). Coprophagy is, therefore, likely an important and understudied component of parrotfish nutrition.

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