Scarus vetulaQueen Parrotfish

Geographic Range

Scarus vetula range from the West Indies to Florida. (Breder, 1929)


Scarus vetula are found in the tropical coral reefs of the Caribbean and are, therefore, restricted to relatively shallow water (Boschung, 1983).

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • reef

Physical Description

Scarus vetula have four rows of scales on their cheeks. They have no longitudinal band on their head or body, but a red band near the edge of the caudal fin is present (Breder, 1929). S. vetula have teeth that form beak-like plates, similar to parrots. The lower plate is hidden by the upper plate when their mouth is closed. S. vetula can be identified by a long, single dorsal fin and a truncated caudal fin (Boschung, 1983). S. vetula exhibit sexual dimorphism, females are a drab bluish-brown, with a pale band running along the lower side of the fish, males are green-blue, with scales that have yellow centers and distinct yellow lines running from the mouth to the eye (Wheeler, 1975). S. vetula young have two white stripes and a white belly (Smith, 1997).


Scarus vetula reproduce sexually with external fertilization. Breeding occurs throughout the year, with most activity in the mornings. Their breeding system is characterized as harem polygyny: one male mates with multiple females. The supermale in the group is in a terminal phase, where he is brightly colored. The supermale spawns with an individual female by first swimming in circles around the females and then as they increase their speed and tighten their circles the female joins the supermale. At this time the gametes are released into the water (Clavijo, 1983). Other males spawn with females in groups (Smith, 1997). S. vetula have both an egg and a larval stage and a primary and a terminal phase where they change colors (Lowe-McConnell, 1987).


Scarus vetula are mostly found in small schools of 3 - 4 females and a supermale. They are not strong swimmers so they scull themselves along with their pectoral fins (Lythgoe, 1992). S. vetula are only active during the day. During the night they find a crevice to sleep in and then they secrete a mucous envelope around themselves for protection (Wheeler, 1975).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Scarus vetula are active diurnal herbivores. They scrape algae, preferably turf algae, that is on flat surfaces and coral from coral reefs with their unique beak (Bruggemann, 1994). S. vetula crushes the coral and algae mixture finely in the pharyngeal mill, and the indigestible sand is excreted (Wheeler, 1975). It has also been found that S. vetula feeds on sponges (Dunlap, 1998).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Scarus vetula are a large contributor to the production of sand through their digestion of corals. They are also believed to be a major reef attraction (Wheeler, 1975).

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Scarus vetula have become one of the most important biological factors in the erosion of coral reefs. They also effect the distribution and abundance of Caribbean sponges by feeding on them (Dunlap, 1998). The decrease of coral reefs and sponges have caused a decrease in the tourist industry's revenues (Wheeler, 1975).

Conservation Status

Scarus vetula are not endangered.


Cynthia Wilson (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.


Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.


uses touch to communicate


Boschung, H. 1983. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Fishes, Whales, and Dolphins. New York: Alfred A. Knopf Inc..

Breder, C. 1929. Field Book of Marine Fishes of the Atlantic Coast. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.

Bruggemann, J. 1994. Comparative analysis of foraging and habitat use by the sympatric Caribbean parrotfish Scarus vetula and Sparisoma viride (Scaridae).. Marine Ecology, 112: 51-66.

Clavijo, I. 1983. Pair spawing and formation of a lek-like mating system in the parrotfish Scarus vetula.. Copeia: 253-256.

Dunlap,, M., J. Pawlik. 1998. Spongivory by parrotfish in Florida mangrove and reef habitats.. Marine Ecology, 19: 325-337.

Lieske, E., R. Myers. 1999. Coral Reef Fishes. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Lowe-McConnell, R. 1987. Ecological Studies in Tropical Fish Communities. New. York: Cambridge University Press.

Lythgoe, J., G. Lythgoe. 1992. Fishes of the Sea: The North Atlantic and Mediterranean. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Nelson, J. 1984. Fishes of the World. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Smith, C. 1997. National Audubon Society Field Guide to Tropical Marine Fishes of the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc..

Wheeler, A. 1975. Fishes of the World: An Illustrated Dictionary. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc..