August Species in the Spotlight: Triggerfish

🐠🐠 August Species of the Month: Triggerfish 🐠🐠

For the species of the month, we would like to introduce you to the Triggerfish family!

You may already have encountered these somewhat “fugly” fish from various memes scattered across the internet. These fellas have risen to fame due to their somewhat comical appearance with a laterally compressed body fronted by a prominent set of teeth.

Triggerfish belong to the Balistidae family which includes approximately 40 species predominantly found around the equatorial latitudes. They utilize a locking spine which keeps them wedged tightly into rocks which can be released using the smaller trigger spine found further along the body. This mechanism (often described as a “trigger” mechanism) gives rise to their name.

Although somewhat dorky looking, these fish are highly intelligent creatures able to search for food buried underneath the sand bed by blowing the substrate away with blasts of water from their mouth and powerful undulating fins. A muscular jaw lined with tough teeth allows them to crack open the toughest of shells. Their favourite food includes crustaceans and urchins which they flip over to infiltrate the soft flesh contained within from the non-spiny section.

It is for this reason that that certain species such as the orange lined trigger are considered of ecological importance to reefs. By maintaining coral-eating urchin populations, they help to conserve threatened coral reefs.

To many people however, triggerfish are renowned for their bad attitude and highly territorial nature with reports of them chasing and even attacking divers. One cannot deny the sheer beauty of these creatures with species such as the Clown Trigger sporting a truly majestic colour pattern. Perhaps one of the most famous triggerfish is the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa (tongue twister and a half) which is the national state fish of Hawaii and even inspired the iconic song from High School Musical 2!

So, the next time you encounter a triggerfish when surfing the web, you can appreciate the character behind the somewhat terrifying smile.

{Written by Conlan Gallacher}