AppearanceAs its relatives, this parrotfish starts as female and then changes to male . However, unlike most of its relatives, it is a secondary gonochorist. This means that some females do not change sex , the ones that do change from female to male do it while still immature and there are no males with female-like colours .
Juveniles less than 7 cm long are mottled with a yellowish head and have undifferentiated gonads . Immatures that are 7–12 cm long are mottled brownish and have immature female gonads . If stressed, they adopt a pattern with broad horizontal white stripes. At larger sizes, the adult colours appear and the male or female gonads are mature. The adult females are red with a yellow-edged greyish saddle shape on the back and a yellow spot at the base of the tail. The males are overall greyish with paler underparts and no distinctive markings, although typically with blackish bars on the throat and opercular. Adults reach a maximum length of about 52 cm , but most are 15–30 cm long. There is an almost complete overlap in the sizes of the adult females and adult males, although the former are on average smaller than the latter.
BehaviorThe Mediterranean parrotfish feeds primarily on epilithic and coralline algae, but may also take epiphytic algae and small invertebrates. The jaws and dentition are specially adapted to this feeding.
It primarily breeds during the summer, from July to September, but breeding can occur as early as May and late as December. It is a diurnal fish, but spawning is around dawn or dusk and can occur in pairs or groups. The pelagic eggs hatch into free-swimming larvae. The pelagic stage for the eggs and larvae is 50–60 days in ''Sparisoma'' parrotfish, after which they settle on rocky reefs and among seagrass.
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