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Interesting Facts About Reef Triggerfish

Renuka Savant

What do you call a group of triggerfish?

A harem.
Cheeky little monsters, those triggerfish―did you know that the males are known to keep harems of female mates? They also loathe intruders of any kind, be it other fish or human divers, and love to bite them in retaliation. Speaking of biting, their blue teeth are one of a kind, as are their blue lips.

Unique, weird, and way out wild, there are several interesting facts about triggerfish that are simply entertaining. And we've listed them here, just for you.

Reef Triggerfish Facts

Triggerfish are also known by their Hawaiian name (hold your breath), Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, or Humuhumu in short. The name happens to be one of the longest words in Hawaiian (really, now?), and translates to "triggerfish with a snout like a pig".

Hawaiian triggerfish

It is classified as Rhinecanthus rectangulus, and is endemic to the saltwater coasts of various central and south Pacific Ocean islands. Without a doubt, it is the official state fish of Hawaii.
Including the humuhumu, there are about 40 different species of triggerfish inhabiting our oceans. They are mostly found in the Indo-Pacific region, where they swim in shallow waters around the coral reefs, and are easily spotted by snorkelers and scuba divers.

Clown triggerfish

All species of triggerfish are absolutely gorgeous to look at. They are oval-shaped, with a compressed structure. You can spot them in vivid hues of blue, yellow, white, black, and gray, sometimes with varied markings on them in the shape of lines and dots. Their coloring is used as a camouflage, considering their surroundings.
Triggerfish tend to vary in size, but the largest among them is the stone triggerfish, known to be about 3 meters long, found in the Eastern Pacific from Mexico to Chile.
Since triggers belong to the Balistidae family, they are named after a set of spines which are used to hold off predators or to "lock" themselves into holes, and crevices. Once the danger subsides, this system is "unlocked" by depressing a smaller, "trigger" spine.

Picasso triggerfish

Their eating habits are mighty weird as well. Their diet includes crabs and worms, which they dig out of the sand by flapping away debris using their fins and squirting water from their mouths at the same time.
They also get very aggressive, using their sharp teeth and tough jaws to make a meal of sea urchins, flipping them over to gnaw at their bellies, which are relatively spine-free. Triggerfish cause a lot of mayhem while eating, and are therefore, followed around by other fish (keeping a respectful distance, of course), to feast on their leftovers.
Triggers are known to be solitary but do seek a mate at a certain time. The males of some species even keep a harem of potential mates. Males also tend to establish seafloor nests for the females to lay tens of thousands of eggs to be fertilized. Females share responsibility of caring for the eggs until they hatch.

Titan triggerfish

The mortality rate among their young is pretty high, as they are the food source of several bigger fish. As they get larger, their chances of survival steadily increase as well.
It's easy to be fooled by the trigger's good looks, as they are known to have a nasty disposition. They are dominant and extremely territorial, and tend to bite any beings that they conceive as a threat, which is pretty much everything and everyone. Their bite, thankfully, is not life-threatening or dangerous.
Owing to their attractiveness, triggers are much sought-after in the aquarium trade, including the threatened species. However, researchers are now taking efforts to breed more triggerfish in captivity so that the ones in the wild get a better chance of survival.