Parrot Fish, the common name of the numerous cyclolabroid fishes of the genus scarus (Forsk.); the name is derived from the beaklike form of their jaws; they also present the same brilliancy and variety of colors as do the parrots among birds. The form is oblong and stout, with the lateral line branching and interrupted under the end of the dorsal fin. The jaws are prominent, convex, each divided by a median suture; the teeth are incorporated with the bone, arranged in an imbricated manner in crowded quincunxes, the oldest forming the cutting border, and succeeded by the lower ranks as the former are worn away; their surface is generally smooth and polished; the pharyngeal teeth consist of trenchant transverse vertical plates, two above and one below, presenting when worn narrow ellipses of dentine surrounded by enamel; the lips are simple and fleshy, in some species leaving the teeth exposed. The body is covered with large scales, as far as the gill covers and cheeks, there being from 21 to 25 in a longitudinal line and 8 in a vertical one at the region of the pectorals; those at the base of the caudal fin are large and embrace a considerable portion of its rays; there is a single conical dorsal, with 9 spiny and 10 articulated rays; the anal has 2 spiny and 8 articulated rays.
The muzzle is obtuse, and the profile sometimes rather high; there are no stomachal nor pancreatic caeca. About 100 species are described, living principally on the coral reefs of the West and East Indian archipelagoes, about one quarter dwelling around the Molucca and Sunda islands. The best known is the parrot fish of the Mediterranean (8. Cretensis, Rond.), red or blue according to season, highly esteemed by the ancients; it is about 15 in. long, of a general purplish color, roseous below, and violet brown on the back; the pectorals orange, ventrals with transverse lines of violet, and dorsal violet gray with golden spots and bands. There is more said of this fish in the ancient writers than of any other; in Pliny's time it was ranked as the first of fishes, and large sums were expended to stock the Italian waters with it from the sea between Crete and Asia Minor. By the ancients it was believed to have a voice, to sleep at night (alone of fishes), to release its companions and other fishes from nets, and to have the power of ruminating; the last belief naturally arose from the backward and forward movement of the jaws rendered possible by the mode of articulation, and necessary for the complete mastication of the seaweeds upon which it principally feeds.
Its flesh is tender and easy of digestion, and the intestines and their contents were highly relished; the modern Greeks call it scaro, and consider it a fish of exquisite flavor, eating it with a sauce made of its liver and intestines, as the moderns eat plover and woodcock; its liver entered into the composition of the famous dish called "the shield of Minerva," with the brains of the peacock and pheasant, flamingoes' tongues, and the milt of the mursena eel. The red parrot fish of the West Indies (S. Abilgaardii, Val.), about 16 in. long, is a handsome species. The great parrot fish (S. guacamaia, Val.), from the same locality, attains a length of 2 1/2 or 3 ft., and a weight of 30 lbs.; the colors are red, blue, and green. Many other beautiful species are described from North America in Dr. Storer's " Synopsis," and the whole genus is treated at length in vol. xiv. of the Histoire naturelle des pois-.80718 by Cuvier and Valenciennes.
1. Head of Parrot Fish. 2. Jaws, natural size.