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Sparisoma cretense (Linnaeus, 1758)

Photos & text George & John Reclos / Andreas Iliopoulos. Aegean Sea, Serifos island, August 2004.

Original drawing in "Guid d'identification des poissons marins Europe et Mediterranee" by Patrick Louisy

Family: SCARIDAE

 Genus: Sparisoma

Species: cretense

Natural Habitat: They prefer rocky or sandy regions and reefs. 

Depth: :The animals are found at depths from 2 to 50 m but are usually  found between 20 and 35 m. I found this large school of S. cretense at a depth of about 9 meters, but next to it there were great depths that exceeded 35 meters.

Size: They usually reach 30 cm of  length (SL), but fully-grown individuals may grow up to 50 cm of  length (TL). Animals larger than 15 cm are sexually matured.

Food: They feed upon algae and a great variety of invertebrates, which they break with their beak-like mouths.

Distribution: Mediterranean Sea. Azores to Senegal.

Common name: European parrotfish

Breeding: The ones I found had formed a large school (about 40 fish). They were 39 colourful females around a fully matured male (about 50-60cm). The females were foraging on the rocks eating algae, while the male was 5 meters deeper eating and looking around for any suspicious movement. When I dived towards the school the male went another 5 meters deeper (about 15-18 meters) so that there was always a huge distance separating us, while the females were still  eating without getting worried from the rock. I suppose that because the place was next to cliffs reaching depths well over 35 meters, those females had gathered around a huge male in order to spawn with it, and after spawning they would leave again for depths that (at least for me) are inaccessible.

General Information: This is the only known parrotfish species in which the ♀♀ are colourful and not the ♂ animals. Thus, ♀♀ show a reddish overall colouration with a blue grey saddle-like marking starting from the back of the eyes, going down to the pectoral fins and up to the front side of the dorsal fin, while it is bordered by a distinctive yellow line. on the contrary, the ♂♂  are grey or blue grey. Highly appreciated as a precious fish food it is cooked on the grill without removing the guts or the skin. When cooked, the skin and scales are pealed off and it is eaten as is (guts included). It is said that this is the best recipe which will make this fish a real delicacy.

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