Sparisoma cretense

The mediterranean parrotfish, scientifically known as Sparisoma cretense, is a species of Perciformes belonging to the family Scaridae. Specimens of this species are found in shallow coastal waters (up to 50 meters) and temperate and/or subtropical waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the northeastern Atlantic Ocean, from the Portuguese coasts to Senegal, including in between the Azores, Madeira, Canary and Cape Verde Islands.

Sparisoma cretense reaches maximum total sizes of 50 cm, although the most common sizes to observe are between 15 and 30 cm. The body is oval in shape and laterally compressed. It has a face ending in a slight blunt tip, with a robust but small terminal mouth, equipped with a beak on each of the jaws formed by the fusion of the teeth. The upper plate of the beak is crimped to the lower plate when the mouth is closed. The face is also notable for its lateral eyes with a completely flat interorbital space. The dorsal fin is of homogeneous height along its entire length, the pectoral fins are short and the caudal fin is rounded.

Specimens of Sparisoma cretense can have two very different liveries. Juveniles and adult males have a variable livery, with purplish brown, olive green, green, red or mixtures of these colors with a pale colored belly, the posterior end of the operculum is blackish and the posterior end of the caudal fin is pale. The second livery is that of the adult females, in which the body is bright red with a dark saddle-shaped spot bordered with golden yellow between the eye and the dorsal fin, extending ventrally in the pectoral area. On the caudal peduncle, on its upper edge we find in adult females a golden yellow semicircular spot.

As is normal in the species of the Scaridae family, the specimens of Sparisoma cretense all begin their lives as females, and later in the course of their lives they can change to males. Unlike other parrotfishes, not all females make the sex change to males, and if it occurs, it takes place when the females are still sexually immature.

Sparisoma cretense feed mainly on algae and small invertebrates. They use their strong teeth to gnaw the coralline and epiphytic algae of the rocky bottoms they inhabit.

Reproduction occurs during the summer months from July to September, a period during which reproduction usually occurs at dusk, either in isolated pairs or in small groups of individuals. After the release of the eggs by the females, the males release a cloud of sperm that fertilizes them, leaving the eggs at the mercy of the currents to disperse. For about 2 months the larvae will be part of the zooplankton, after which they will descend to the bottom as juveniles.