Parrotfishes and surgeonfishes are abundant tropical fish known to play an important role in grazing on algae that can otherwise overgrow corals–but did you also know that many species also actively consume fish feces?
Former master's student Hannah Rempel and former undergraduate Abigail Siebert led a study on 'Feces consumption by nominally herbivorous fishes in the Caribbean: an underappreciated source of nutrients?' published in Coral Reefs today. To our knowledge, this is the first study documenting this behavior by these fishes in the Caribbean region. We found that the majority of parrotfish and surgeonfishes consumed fish feces and that they predominantly target the feces of an abundant planktivore, Chromis multilineata. Our findings also suggest that these fecal pellets are an important nutritional resource that are rich in macronutrients like protein and micronutrients like phosphorus compared to other common dietary items, like a fish "Vitamin Sea"!
Well, we're a collection of science-minded marine misfits. But we're always up to something...