Diving enthusiasts throughout the world can find up to 40 different species of Triggerfish – Balistidae, as they are also known. Normally identified as bottom-dwellers, triggerfish skillfully dig up their prey – which include different species of worms and crabs – using only their fins. Their sharp teeth and powerful jaws make them a worthy adversary for sea urchins as well. In fact, triggerfish are known to be quite dangerous to a number of other sea creatures as well, smaller fish even tailing them while they hunt, in order to feast on the leftovers left behind by the triggerfish.
Triggerfish are known to be solitary, only meeting up at established mating grounds on occasion. They are usually easy to spot and identify, and measure about 30-50 cm – although some species are able to grow up to 1 meter in length. Oval shaped and featuring beautiful light colors, triggerfish have a small but extremely tough jaw and a mouth and tooth structure that is well-adapted to crushing shells. Their sharp, aerodynamic fins ensure that they are able to cut through the water with ease and sneak up on their prey. To protect themselves from their natural predators, triggerfish can also lift their two dorsal spines.
When it comes to the general behavior and feeding habits of the triggerfish, Balistidae researchers who have thoroughly studied these fish have shown how the triggerfish feasts not only on crustaceans, mollusks, and sea urchins – normally considered to be some of the more difficult to deal with among all invertebrates – but also on small fish or even algae. The aggressive nature of most species of Balistidae is reflected not only through their hunting habits, but also through the way they guard their eggs. Triggerfish have been known to become extremely territorial and even violently defensive when protecting their nests from intruders.
Male territoriality is a unique trait of triggerfish that shows how males aggressively defend their mating grounds. A male’s territory can be used both for spawning and caring for juveniles. While single territories can include more than one female, numbers differ depending on the males’ ability to protect their mating territories. In some cases, one male can be assigned more than three females. This type of territoriality can be observed particularly in certain species of triggerfish, Balistidae experts affirm, some species, like the red-toothed triggerfish or the yellow margin triggerfish, constantly exhibit polygamy, with males of the species mating with up to 10 females per day.