I saw this rather splendid stareye parrotfish sitting motionless on a patch of sand with its dorsal fin raised. It’s the first time I’d seen a parrotfish do this and I don’t know the reason. At night they will find a crack in the reef to sleep, but during the day they typically cruise around and are very skittish around people.
This photo shows the ‘beak’ of the parrotfish, which is made up of individual teeth that are fused together and are incredibly strong. It uses this ‘beak’ to scrape algae off rocks and also to dig into the coral. After grinding this up and extracting the organic matter, the residue is expelled. This parrotfish poop forms most of Hawaii’s fabulous white sand beaches!
This is the fifth of my rainbow colors in response to Becky’s April Squares challenge theme of ‘Bright.’ (See more responses here.) It’s also where I get into trouble. Cyan? What’s cyan doing in a rainbow? What happened to blue?
Well, blue is coming. What’s gone is indigo. The traditional rainbow colors are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. These colors were assigned by Sir Isaac Newton way back in the 1600s. In fact, he started with just five colors – red, yellow, green, blue and violet. Later, he added orange and indigo to the color spectrum. These days though, what Newton called blue is today called cyan, and what he called indigo is now called blue.
In reality, there are no bands of color in a rainbow. There’s a continuous gradation of color. The bands are seen because the human eye is limited in the colors it perceives. Converted to black and white, the bands dissolve.
So, for my rainbow colors, I looked at my photos and what I see are red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue and violet. Of course, if you look at the colors on the inside of a rainbow, you’ll see they keep going, back through the same sequence. And where the red of this supplementary rainbow overlaps the violet of the primary, the result is more of a purple color.
Having labored through all that, today’s rainbow is a small, bright segment on the ocean, with a black and white version of the same image. Then we have a patch of sand underwater, showing different patterns and colors. Finally, a bullethead parrotfish, bashes its beak on some coral in its pursuit of food.
This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Your Happy Place.’ See more responses here.
There were a few options for this theme, but I went with this collection because I love going snorkeling and because, just a few days ago, my wife and I revisited Two Step for the final time before Hawaii loosened its restrictions on visitors. We got up early, drove down, and were in the water around 7:45 am. There were two other people swimming at that time, no one else waiting to get in.
The top photo was taken after our swim, around 9:30 am. In a ‘normal’ year, at this time of day, this whole area would be dotted with groups of people, and chairs and mounds of towels left by people already in the water. The bay would also be similarly populated with people, cruising around, looking at fish. There would be several snorkeling tour boats out in the bay, dumping people into the water. Two Step is one of the best spots for snorkeling on the island but, truth is, much of the time it’s kind of a zoo.
However, one of the nice things about Two Step, that I’ve mentioned before, is that it’s a marine reserve. No fishing is allowed and the fish have figured that out. I can’t emphasize enough how differently the fish there react to people than they do in areas where fishing and spear fishing is allowed. They’re so much more mellow and less inclined to dart away.
Also posted in response to Becky’s October Squares challenge theme of ‘Kind.’ See more responses here.
The magenta lines around the eye of this fish identify it as a supermale stareye parrotfish. Parrotfish have initial and terminal phases. Most adults remain in the initial phase throughout their lives as either males or females, though some parrotfish are all females.
Terminal phase parrotfish are called supermales. These are female initial phase fish which have reversed their sex. They will fertilize most of the eggs laid by initial phase females in their territories. When one of these supermales dies, another initial phase female will reverse sex and take its place.
Peacock groupers are easily identified by their iridescent blue spots and, in larger specimens, lighter vertical bars toward the tail. They tend to be skittish fish, diving for cover when anything approaches. But these two were in an area where fishing is prohibited and I’ve noticed that the fish in these areas have figured out they don’t have to worry about people in the water (probably a big mistake).
Another trait of peacock groupers is that they will often hunt with eels and octopuses. That’s what these two were doing on this day. On the right of the photo, the tail of the eel can be seen sticking out from whatever cranny the eel was disappearing into.
But the thing I like best about this photo is the fish just above the head of the top peacock grouper. Not much can be seen of it except for two white areas that look like a mischievous grin. I suspect that these white spots are the bill of a large parrotfish, but I was never able to get enough of a look to be sure.
This is, I think, an initial phase bullethead parrotfish. Parrotfish can go through several phases and look quite different in each one. Some also change sex.
So why is this titled ‘crunchy parrotfish?’ Well, I was watching this fish feed and when it feeds, it uses that big, white-rimmed beak to scrape algae and coral polys off the rocks. While it was doing so, I could clearly hear the quite loud crunching noise it made.
The top one shows something of the peril of life in the ocean. This ember parrotfish is missing a chunk of its dorsal fin and back. I see it often when I go snorkeling and it doesn’t seem the least bit affected by its wound. It’s not unusual to see fish with a tail missing or a chunk removed from part of its body. If it heals, they seem quite able to carry on as normal.
In the photo below, this ember parrotfish has no wounds and is quite healthy. A couple of things of note about this fish. One is the dark algae ‘mustache.’ The other is that its eye looks exactly the same as the eyes of a teddy bear I had when I was a kid. Awww!