With oversized chompers, bumphead parrotfish munch their way to helping -- and, to a degree, hurting -- coral reef ecosystems. To the coral's benefit, these rare fish feast on on algae that out-compete reefs for resources. Parrotfish also crunch down on the coral itself, however. That endangered species can be both an ecological boon and bane is an often-overlooked fact -- but it's a fact that's important to understand, researchers say, to better conserve rare animals like parrotfish and elephants.
It took hours of underwater observation to shed light on the dual role bumphead parrotfish play in their coral homes, according to a new report in Conservation Biology. "We actually swam alongside bumphead parrotfish for close to six hours at a time, taking detailed data on what they ate and where they went," says UC Santa Barbara marine biologist Douglas McCauley, in a press release.