Reef triggerfish

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"Humuhumunukunukuāpuaa" redirects here. For the Rhinecanthus aculeatus of the same name, see Lagoon triggerfish.
Reef triggerfish
Reef Triggerfish 1.JPG
Reef Triggerfish.JPG
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Tetraodontiformes
Family: Balistidae
Genus: Rhinecanthus
Species: R. rectangulus
Binomial name
Rhinecanthus rectangulus
(Bloch & J. G. Schneider, 1801)
Rhinecanthus rectangulus

The reef, rectangular, or wedge-tail triggerfish, also known by its Hawaiian name, humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa (pronounced [ˈhumuˈhumuˈnukuˈnukuˈwaːpuˈwɐʔə]), also spelled Humuhumunukunukuapua'a or just humuhumu for short; meaning "triggerfish with a snout like a pig."[1] is one of several species of triggerfish. Classified as Rhinecanthus rectangulus, it is endemic to the salt water coasts of various central and south Pacific Ocean islands. It is often asserted that the Hawaiian name is one of the longest words in the Hawaiian language and that "the name is longer than the fish."


The triggerfish's teeth and top lip are blue and the teeth are set close together inside its relatively chubby mouth. It has a small second spine, which it can use to lock its main spine into an upright position. The triggerfish can wedge itself into small crevices and lock its spine to make it extremely difficult to get out. In addition, when fleeing from predators, the triggerfish will sometimes make grunting noises, possibly a call to warn other nearby triggerfish of danger.[2] One particularly interesting aspect of the fish's behavior is the ability to blow jets of water from its mouth. These jets help the fish find benthic invertebrates that may be buried under the substrate. Triggerfish can often be seen spitting sand from their mouths in order to sift through the material in search of edible detritus or organisms. Reef triggers are fairly aggressive and will generally not tolerate conspecific individuals in their general vicinity; thus the fish is often found solitary. This is particularly true in captivity. Triggers have the remarkable ability to rapidly alter their coloration. They can fade into a relatively drab appearance when sleeping or demonstrating submission, while their coloration is often the most vivid when the fish are healthy and unthreatened by their surroundings.

Hawaii state fish[edit]

Humuhumunukunukuapua'a at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii

The reef triggerfish was originally designated the official fish of Hawaii in 1985,[3] but due to an expiration of a Hawaiian state law after five years, it ceased to be the state fish in 1990.[4] On April 17, 2006, bill HB1982 was presented to the Governor of Hawaiʻi, which permanently reinstated the reef triggerfish (humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa) as the state fish of Hawaiʻi.[5] The bill passed into law on May 2, 2006, and was effective upon its approval.[6][7]


  1. ^ humuhumunukunukuapua'a. The Free Dictionary. Retrieved on 2015-05-18.
  2. ^ April True or Fool Quiz. Maui Ocean Center (2015-03-31). Retrieved on 2015-05-18.
  3. ^ Hawaiian Bill 1982 Retrieved 2011-05-17
  4. ^ "Lawmaker seeks official status for humuhumunukunukuapuaa". USA Today. January 1, 2006. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  5. ^ HB1982 Measure History. Retrieved on 2015-05-18.
  6. ^ House Bill. Retrieved on 2015-05-18.
  7. ^ Hawaii may honor long-named fish - Weird news. MSNBC (2006-04-18). Retrieved on 2015-05-18.

Further reading[edit]