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SAND MAKER One of our reef’s more colorful inhabitants is the uhu, or parrotfish. With its psychedelic colors, parrotfish are easily discernable from their fellow reef-dwelling residents. Their unusual coloring, though, isn’t the only extraordinary thing about them. Parrotfish prefer to eat a diet of coral, and often their chomping can be heard underwater. After their meals, they expel a stream of sand, as much as a ton per fish per year! We can give a little bit of thanks to these unusual fish for our islands’ beautiful beaches, as their excrement has helped make them. Hawaiian waters are home to three endemic uhu, as well as four non-endemic ones. Parrotfish do not start off their lives looking as fabulous as they do in adulthood—heir colors evolve over time; and in fact, some fish have the ability to change sex and become even more colorful as their lives progress. For instance, “supermale” parrotfish have a harem of female fish—when the supermale dies, the strongest female in the harem changes sex and adapts the colors of the male. As if all that strangeness wasn’t enough, parrotfish also enjoy sleeping in a cocoon made of mucus, potentially as a form of protection from eels and other predators. Now when you catch a glimpse of this unique fish, you’ll never look at them the same way again. 16


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