Sunday 25 August 2013


Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum)
Triggerfish are already mean, violent and dressed like a clown, but are they ARMED as well?

Crime! Villainy! Shooting people! From Batman's Joker to Dick Tracy's Big Boy, it's always the bad guys who get the cool threads, the interesting faces and all the fun. Crime is quite clearly a great, big lark! True joy and contentment is just one petty larceny away.

Image: emily
Queen Triggerfish (Balistes vetula)
I think someone should set up a business to take tourists around the world and rob banks in beautiful, exotic locales. Then you could hit the glitzy shopping districts to spend your hard-earned spoils on unique, unforgettable clothing for the next job.

Triggerfish clearly understand the importance of appearing bright, eye-catching and memorable whenever one goes a-law breaking.

Image: Adrian Pingstone
Picasso Triggerfish (Rhinecanthus aculeatus)
There are about 40 species in total and most of them are bedecked in bright bold, painterly colours and patterns. This is how they set themselves apart since they don't have the cranial growths or perplexing skin texture of that motley crew in Dick Tracy.

They also don't have guns! Which is good because Triggerfish are noted for their bad temper and fascination with violence. Most Triggerfish are less than 50 cm (20 in) long, which sounds quite small, but then bullets are very small and very bad so it's still good that they don't have that kind of trigger.

Image: Brian Gratwicke
Sargassum Triggerfish (Xanthichthys ringens)
The name actually comes from how their dorsal fin works.

Triggerfish have two dorsal fins, one of which is large and used for swimming. You can always see that one waving to and fro as they make their way through the sea.

Video: darina nolc

The other is usually held flat against their back so you can barely see it at all. It's quite small, but the important thing about it is that it has three strong, sharp spines.

Image: Kevin Bryant
Gray Triggerfish (Balistes capriscus) and the spiky dorsal fin
These spines are used for defence. They can deter predators - spikes often do - and the Triggerfish can also rush into a crevice and jam one into the rock so they can't be pulled out. All this is done with the first spine since it's by far the largest, but it can only be raised and lowered if the second spine is raised or lowered first.

That big spine is locked into place and can only be moved if it's triggered by the second spine. This convoluted thinking is typical of the criminal mind.

Image: jome jome
Indian Triggerfish (Melchthys indicus) wearing my crime-committing outfit
So it's spikes but no guns.

Oh, spikes and...

Image: Philippe Guillaume
Titan Triggerfish (Balistoides viridescens) and its titan teeth

Triggerfish don't have a lot of teeth, but the ones they do have are nasty. They have to be for all the cracking, crushing and crunching they get up to. Triggerfish don't eat easy food, they eat hard stuff like crustaceans, shellfish and sea urchins. They'll really tear the place up to get at them, too. Rocks are thrown aside to find food and smaller fish often follow behind to try and get in on the action.

Image: jome jome
Orange-striped Triggerfish (Balistapus undulatus)
So, Triggerfish have brutal teeth and a powerful bite. That's nice for them. The problem is... they know it! Some Triggerfish are just mean in general but it gets serious when the family is involved.

Triggerfish lay their eggs in a hole dug in the ground. They then unilaterally declare ownership of the surrounding area and viciously defend their territory against all comers.

They don't look like they should be fast, but they are. And while those jaws look small compared to that massive head, it's big enough and strong enough to draw blood and make you cry. And then everyone will laugh at you. And then it'll bite you again.

This is when you run away.

Don't try and be a hero.


  1. some are actually pretty, but that first one is messed up! hawaiian shirt meets leopard print and then some! :) and teeth? no thank you.

  2. The first one makes no sense whatsoever!