Most of us are suckers for a tropical island. Beautiful white sandy beaches, cocktails, cool sea breeze, sand between your toes.
But get this – all that sand down there..most of it came out of the wrong end of a fish.
All that pristine white sand is actually made from the poop of parrotfish.
Professor Chris Perry, a Tropical Coastal Geoscientist from the University of Exeter, England is the lucky scientist who gets to hang out in tropical islands studying this strange natural phenomenon.
“You can find parrot fish on reefs throughout the tropics,” says Prof Perry. “You see them active on the reef, feeding on the hard coral material continuously. And the amazing thing is that you can hear this incredible grinding, crunching noise that really gives you a sense of the life on the reef. ….After the parrot fish have eaten the coral, they then excrete it as sand.”
In one year, each parrotfish eats enough coral in the Maldives to poop out one tonne of sand, literally.
And there’s an awful lot of fish in the Indian Ocean tropical waters that surround the Maldives.
“That same sand material that you find in the parrot fish pooh can be found in the islands themselves. On some islands, the sand material is made up of over 70% parrot fish poo,” says Professor Perry. “The parrot fish are absolutely crucial to the development of these islands.”
Parrot fish aren’t in the business of seaside resort development. These tropical islands were a happy accident. They parrotfish were just snacking but over time they pooped out whole islands.
Without parrotfish the Maldives would literally not exist. And neither would many other tropical islands and white sandy beaches.
Just stop a moment to take that in.
A bunch of little fish can create a whole group of islands just by going about their daily routine. Earth sure is one strange and freaky planet.