I’ve always been interested in science. Particularly natural science – my favorite books as a child weren’t fairytale books. They were the books from the old and outdated set of natural history books published by Time/Life my parents had. Mind you, I never wanted to pursue science as a career – just reading about it was enough. Because there are just so many things you could hear about that will blow your mind.
Meet the parrotfish. These guys live around coral reefs, grow to about a meter long, and have a beak-like mouth that is strong enough to bite through rock. In fact, that’s what they eat – not the rocks, but the algae growing on them. And the animals inside coral skeletons. But rather than fussing around with trying to maneuver the coral polyps out of the reefs, or lick the algae off the rocks, they just take a whole chomp out of the rocks and reefs, like they were apples.
Their stomachs are powerful enough to digest the algae and animals inside the rock and coral – and in the process, their stomachs grind those chucks of rock and limestone from the coral down fine; and so what they end up passing is a very fine, soft sand. And that sand builds up around the reefs – and over time, sand from scores of parrotfish has found its way onto the beaches of tropical islands around the world.
So what this means to us is – if you’ve ever been to a beach in the Caribbean, and marvelled at how soft and fine the sand was – it’s because you were actually walking in parrotfish poop.