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Trigger Fish No. 1, original Prismacolor drawing on archival paper, 14" x 17"
My partnership with No Shoes Reefs has inspired my reef fish series. With each new fish drawing, I learn what roll that fish plays in the reef system.
Description of the Triggerfish
For the most part, these fish are small or medium-sized. A few species can grow larger, and their maximum size is 3.3 ft. long. Their bodies are oval-shaped, and come to a point at the mouth. They are also tall and narrow, which is known as “lateral compression.”
Along the tops and bottoms of their bodies they sprout large fins. The top fin (dorsal) and bottom fin (anal) are quite large, and provide most of the fish’s motion. When they must swim quickly, they use their tail fins.
Interesting Facts About the Triggerfish
These beautiful fish are intriguing creatures, which have a number of traits and behaviors to help them survive in their ocean environment.
Alert! – While diving along the reef, you might hear a grunting sound, almost like a pig. You aren’t hearing things! Triggerfishes emit a grunt-like noise when they spot a predator. This warns other animals of the danger.
That’s a Mouthful – The reef triggerfish is the state fish of Hawaii. However, in Hawaii they are known by another, much longer name. The Hawaiians call reef triggerfish humuhumunukunukuapua’a. In the Hawaiian language, every single vowel and consonant is pronounced.
Chompers – Speaking of mouthfuls, there is a reason for the oddly-shaped heads these creatures possess. They use their strong, powerful, jaws to crush shelled invertebrates. Some species also use their tough teeth to scrape algae.
Don’t Mess with Mama – These fish have a reputation for being incredibly aggressive. A few species are even known to attack divers! However, they don’t attack without reason. Most angry triggerfishes are actually protecting their nests from perceived predators.
Habitat of the Triggerfish
While there are approximately 40 different species of triggerfish, most live in the same types of habitats. They prefer to live in shallow waters close to the coast, particularly along coral reefs. Where coral reefs are absent, rocky outcrops and other shallow aquatic habitats are acceptable. Some species, namely the oceanic triggerfish, are pelagic. This means that they live in the open ocean rather than close to shore.
Distribution of the Triggerfish
Different species of triggerfish reside in oceans worldwide. However, temperature restricts their distribution somewhat. The vast majority of species live in tropical waters where coral reefs can thrive. Other species can live in subtropical oceans as well. The highest number of species lives in the Indo-Pacific region.
Diet of the Triggerfish
These fish feed primarily on hard-bodied invertebrates. Some of their favorite foods include sea urchins, crabs, shrimp, sand dollars, sea cucumbers, starfish, and more. Some species will also feed on algae, but most are carnivorous in nature. Rather than catching swift prey by out-swimming it, these fish target slow-moving creatures. They can eat this armored prey by using their powerful jaws to crush shells and exoskeletons.
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