Parrotfish mucus cocoon production at night in Bonaire, N.A.

Many marine organisms use mucus to catch food, clean themselves, or for protection from predators. Some species of parrotfish (Family Scaridae) use mucus to build cocoons around themselves at night, which is thought to be a form of protection. Although there are reports of parrotfish constructing mucus cocoons, little is known about which specific species produces cocoons, where on the reef cocoons are used, or how prevalent the behavior is in Bonaire, N.A. The purpose of this study was to determine which species and phases of parrotfish construct cocoons, the distribution of cocoons from the reef slope to the shallow subtidal, and whether cocoons are being used for protection from predators. Observations took place between Oct. – Nov. 2009, after 23:00 h. Six depths were surveyed for parrotfish (1, 3, 6.5, 10, 15, and 20 m) and surveys were standardized by time. A guide diver assisted in keeping time, recording predators, and maintaining depth. Seven to 10 min was spent at each depth starting at 20 m and working up to 1 m. This study provides information on the nighttime ecology of parrotfish, which may be important for conservation of the species. During this study, two species of parrotfish, Scarus taeniopterus (princess parrotfish) and Scarus vetula (queen parrotfish), were found in cocoons; cocoons were only built along the reef slope, and none were found on the reef flat. Only terminal phase S. taeniopterus were found in cocoons, whereas terminal and initial phase S. vetula were found in cocoons.

This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science VI (Fall 2009)19: 53-57 from CIEE Bonaire.

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