Photo credit: Clive Coward
Mention ‘triggerfish’ to any avid snorkeller or diver, and their expression cycles through a mixture of amusement and mild terror. Visitors to tropical reefs around the world are likely to be briefed on the mighty Titan Triggerfish. Titan’s can be extra feisty during their nesting period and swim after snorkellers and divers to protect their eggs. Luckily, there are many species of triggerfish – around 40 – that we don’t need to worry about. They come in vibrant colours and pattern variations. A species of triggerfish rarely seen in the Maldives was recently spotted near Out of the Blue by two guests with a passion for snorkelling and identifying the fish they see.
What is the Wedgetail Triggerfish?
The Wedgetail Triggerfish (Rhinecanthus rectangulus) is a rare member of the triggerfish species. It can be identified by its long snout and large black markings. It is the state animal of Hawaii, where it is known by its Hawaiian name, humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa. Try saying that really fast! The Wedgetail Triggerfish is shy, and will quickly head for cover when noticed by snorkellers or divers. It is usually found around shallow reef slopes that are exposed to ocean surge on the outer reefs, though it can sometimes be seen swimming in the open.
What do they look like?
Like all triggerfish, it has a noticeable hard spiny dorsal fin, often referred to as the ‘trigger’. Triggerfish warn fish away by standing this fin erect. They also use it to wedge themselves in crevices when they want to sleep. Triggerfish are a big-headed fish, in the shape of a rhomboid. Their eyes are placed high and well back on their heads to protect them from their food sources which can sometimes be spiny, like sea urchins. They have small mouths with strong jaws and big teeth that can crush shells and other invertebrates. Triggerfish are a beautiful fish to watch with their variety of colours and patterns. You can often see more than one species while snorkelling around Soneva Fushi.
For guests to Soneva Fushi who are interested in seeing the Wedgetail Triggerfish, here’s a little hint: It seems to live near the waterslide at Out of the Blue!