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36. Keepers of Corals, the Bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum)


You know, it never seizes to amaze me how Nature works in this random and yet wonderful way it has. Thanks to natural selection well-balanced systems have come in place.

Delicate systems of giving and taking that are in equilibrium and work well until a giant disturbance comes along like asteroids, massive volcanic eruptions, humans….

Take for instance these Bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum); they are the keepers of the reef. And they maintain it, by eating it. The beauty of it is that they have a preference for fast growing corals. This way they maintain coral diversity, giving the slow growing corals a chance to develop. They also eat dead and dying corals, and while doing so they make room for young ones to grow. They keep corals healthy by grazing off algae that would otherwise smother the coral polyps. If you think about it this is quite amazing, right? But the best part, the cherry on the cake if you wish, is that their poo is the building block for the idillic white sand beaches we all so adore!

Bumphead parrotfish are endangered to become extinct. As they often gather together in large shoals ànd they prefer shallow water, they make for an easy target for all kinds of fishing techniques.

They can live up to 40 years and have a slow reproduction rate, making them even more vulnerable as they cannot reproduce as fast as they are being wiped out…


I took these images years ago, while still in Bali. It was during one of my favourite dives there: early morning (before that became popular with tourists), on the USAT Liberty wreck. Stepping into the Bali Sea, while seeing a hint of a rising sun on the horizon, finally waking up… Swimming through the dark, keeping our lights turned off on purpose…. then a shadow would take shape: the remnants of the huge stern of the transporting vessel… and by then we might have found the company of these gentle keepers of the reef. They reminded me of cows. I think it was the way they stare…

I took these images with my Olympus Pen Lite EPL3, a hybrid camera, and its standard lens. To be honest, these images did not look great ‘in camera’ and I did some more than average postproduction on them including: stretching, dust removal, colour corrections and sharpening. Many of these only localised.

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