Triggerfish


Triggerfish are members of the Balistidae family, which includes 40 species in 11 genera that inhabit coral reefs in the Atlantic, the Indian, and the Pacific Oceans. They are more common to divers than to anglers, although some are occasionally caught incidentally, and they have been associated with poisoning.

This fish has a compressed body, and the stout first spine of the dorsal fin is locked into place when erect by the much shorter second dorsal spine, which slides forward. The long first spine can be lowered again only by sliding the second spine back.

This can be done by depressing the third spine — the "trigger" — which is attached by a bony base to the second spine. By erecting the first spine and locking it in place, the triggerfish can lodge itself immovably in crevices.

The second dorsal and the anal fins are the same size and shape. Pelvic fins are lacking, and the belly has a sharp-edged outline, with its greatest depth just in front of the anal fin.

The triggerfish is covered with an armor of bony plates. Its leathery skin lacks slime or mucus, and it is capable of rotating each eyeball independently. It normally swims by undulating its second dorsal and its anal fins but will use its tail for rapid bursts.

The queen triggerfish (Balistes vetula) occurs in warm western Atlantic waters northward to the Carolinas and also in the Caribbean. It usually travels alone or in pairs but is occasionally seen in small groups. It has been caught to 12 pounds.

The gray triggerfish (B. capriscus) is widely distributed in the warm Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, ranging farther north than most triggerfish. It has been caught at more than 13 pounds. The ocean triggerfish (Canthidermis sufflamen) may also weigh more than 13 pounds and is found off the Florida coasts and in the Caribbean.
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