Welcome to a blog now shared by one, two, um... four people. Wipe your shoes off on the mat and delve into the posts featuring rants, museum pictures, and some cool facts. Nerds of all kinds welcome.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Parrotfish: The Pretty Fish with Dirty Secrets

Jeez they look like a sad beauty pageant kick-off.

Parrotfish are often recognized as one of the most beautiful groups of fish in the ocean. Many species hold striking colours that dazzle and amaze, and make other less-colourful species of reef fish look like garbage. Little do many know that the parrotfish possesses an array of dark, dirty secrets behind it's trying-too-hard-to-be-pretty visage. Much like the common emotionally-confused teenage girl.

What are you hiding...

There are many different types of parrot fish, some with bizarre shapes and patterns and others that look like a melted clown. Roughly ninety species to be exact, belonging to the family Scaridae. However it's thought that parrotfish may actually be a subfamily of wrasses (which would make wrasses very sad). They can also be found inhabiting the subtropical shallows across the globe. While they mainly dwell in shallow reefs and rocky coves, parrotfish have been observed inhabiting harbors and marinas in schools to pluck out algae and small rocks to feed on. As you may have already guessed, the parrotfish looks almost indistinguishable from the parrot bird. Parrot birds were greatly offended by the comparison.

Here is a picture of a one.

One of the most characteristic features about the parrotfish is it's freakishly fused teeth, which form a sort of "beak" for crushing rocks and breaking coral polyps.

Wait that's not the right image.

That's more like it.

They have evolved this feature because all the parrotfish really eats is algae and rocks. Because of that, parrotfish play a major role in preventing algae overgrowth in the reefs they live on. Too much algae could inhibit the coral to grow. Thus the parrotfish gracefully scrapes the edible algae off of rocky surfaces, which contributes to the process of marine bioerosion. Parrotfish also have a set of specialized teeth located in their throats called pharyngeal teeth, that are used for grinding rocks and coral skeletons.

A set of pharyngeal teeth from a Bumphead parrotfish.

The reason for these teeth is because the parrotfish feeds off of the succulent coral polyps that live inside of coral skeletons. More specifically the algae growing inside the polyps. After the algae is digested, the unwanted rock material is then pulverized and jettisoned out the fish's butt. As a fine sand.

To better understand this process, imagine yourself eating a sandwich made of rocks. But in the middle of these rocks was a delicious layer of ham. So you grind up and eat the entire sandwich. Then you go to the bathroom and simply- actually I don't think this is really helping.

This sand however plays an important role in the formation of beaches and islands. It becomes kicked up and grouped together in large masses. Over time it mixes with other ocean sediments, creating large formations and shorelines. Think about that next time you book a summer vacation.

I know what you're thinking.

Most species of parrotfish are naturally-born hermaphrodites. They are born female, and as they age develop into males. These are called the initial (female) and terminal (male) phases. Parrotfish in the initial phase are usually much more dull-coloured than those in the terminal phase. There are exceptions to this, however. For example, some female Mediterranean parrotfish don't change sex at all. The Stoplight parrotfish can be born either male or female. Those who are born directly as males often will have the colour patterns of the initial phase.

Here is a Stoplight parrotfish in it's boring less-flashy initial stage.
And here is a picture of one in it's terminal phase.
Can you imagine if people did this too?

Remember, the next time you book a tropical island getaway, think of the parrotfish. Because it just crapped out that massive lump of half-digested sand that you call a beach paradise. You should be thanking them for their hard work.

Oh will you get out of here.


Oh Yeah, This Still Exists...

Welp, I know I've been neglecting you guys, starving you of posts and the crude humour, not-so scientific insights, and somewhat sensible ramblings, but I hope that this one makes up for it.

Recently, blogwriters Brenden Hall (who did the last posts on Burpee) and Ray Sabb (the one who writes about movies) stayed here in Illinois for a few days (well, Brenden stayed for 11), of which many adventures were taken. Here is the adventure most relevant to this blog: the Burpee Museum, again.

*heavenly music plays*

Those who know me from both online and in real life know that I praise this museum a lot. And I think they stepped that level of praise up more with their new exhibit: Homer's Odyssey.

Wait, wrong Odyssey.

Nope, that's not it either.

That's better.

Homer, the juvenile Triceratops, was found in 2005, where three years of rigorous work went into unearthing more remains and preparing those remains. Last year, he went through even more cycles of preparation before being shipped to Canada for mounting. Finally, his brand new exhibit officially (I say officially as Homer's skull as been on display for a while, just not as an actual exhibit) opened on June 29, and luckily, we got to see it the next day.

Homer in the front, Pachycephalosaurus in the back. Also that humanoid thing is Brenden.

It might be because it's taken long (well lengthwise, not "museum time"-wise), the fact that I love Homer, the fact he's our Rockford Triceratops, etc, etc, but this is honestly probably my favourite exhibit. From the amount of specimens held within to the Mike Skrepnick paintings and finally seeing Homer with a body, it's astonishing. There's not much more words I can use to describe it, so I'll let the pictures (mostly) do the talking.

Phylogeny wall 1 (Chasmosaurus at right)

Phylogeny wall 2 (Zuniceratops bottom)

Phlyogeny wall 3

The adult skull at far right was Homer's replacement during his time in Canada. Much happier to see it in proper use next to Homer's skull

That Pachycephalosaurus has no idea the paintings aren't real, unless there's a Night at the Museum scenario going on.

"Ernie" the Stangerochampsa, the most adorable crocodilian ever.

Have you ever wondered what a Triceratops butt looked like? Three pictures just satisfied you.

And then finally, some more random Burpee shots.

There's a Ray. 

That's it now. Go home. I might post more. Go.