Like sheep of the sea, these 200-pound Humphead Parrotfish keep the "weeds" (algae) closely cropped. They also eat live coral by breaking it off with their bony foreheads and chomping it up in their beaky mouths—and then they poop out sand. So next time you're lying on a beautiful tropical beach, thank the Parrotfish. Most healthy coral reefs contain huge herds of Humphead Parrotfish. But if you find yourself snorkeling in a habitat overgrown by algae, you'll know that the species has been overfished as a "seafood special."
Field Museum scientists have been studying the distribution of Humphead Parrotfish to monitor habitat health. These researchers also study the fish's impressive bite force, which rivals that of sharks! Learning how this trait has evolved in many different species helps us understand how evolution works. The Museum's fish collection ranks among the largest, most diverse, and most important in the world. Students and scientists from every continent come to study these specimens and learn more about how life has succeeded and struggled in our oceans over time.