Mass coral bleaching is a harrowing phenomenon, but parrotfish benefit significantly as a specific type of algae will bloom across dead coral after a bleaching effect takes place.
Bleaching events are devastating for most animals who live in a reef, but after the reef dies, it will be colonized by a species of microalgae known as cyanobacteria. After the entire reef is colonized, the parrotfish will appear and enjoy the free buffet.
In the aftermath of the massive bleaching events that took place from 2015 to 2017, the number of parrotfish rose exponentially. It was also observed that the fish started to be bigger than they used to be.
To observe the changes, the researchers acquired and explored tiny bones that are located in the head of the parrotfish. The bones can be used as tree rings, allowing researchers to measure annual growth similarly by cutting them.
Species of Fish Thrives Despite Coral Bleaching
The study aimed to see if the increase in growth was in synch with the periods when bleaching events took place, and it seems that the theory is valid. Parrotfish were collected from two sites: Lizard Island, located in the Great Barrier Reef, and the Chagos Archipelago found in the Indian Ocean.
Data collected during the study infers that the populations of parrotfish rose between two to eight times around the sites of coral bleaching while individual fish were up to 20% higher in comparison to similar fish that can be found in pristine reefs.
Since the same event took place in multiple locations, with the two sites explored in the study being separated by a distance of 8000 kilometers, it seems that we are not looking at small-scale incidents.
The current conditions are excellent for parrotfish, but this age of fortune will not last for a long time. At some point, the algae will be replaced by uneatable plants, and the parrotfish population will crash.