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Coloration of the stoplight parrotfish varies greatly, dependent upon what phase the fish is in. During the initial phase, both males and females are mottled reddish brown, often mixed with white scales, on the upper two thirds of the body while the belly is bright red. There are horizontal rows of five pale spots located on the flanks. The dorsal fin and second half of the caudal fin are reddish brown, the anal and pectoral fins are bright red, and the first half of the caudal is white.
Seal Cay, Belize
Parrotfish can undergo sex reversals during their life history. It is believed that sex changes occur when population densities are low, resulting in a lack of breeding males or females. Primary males are born male, and remain so throughout their lives while secondary males are born female, changing both sex and color to become male. These secondary males are also referred to as supermales or terminal males. Females and primary males, similar in appearance, are red, gray, brown, and black. Secondary males are bright green, blue, red, and yellow.