When I first came to Maui, I never thought I’d get this one but soon found it to be quite easy when sounded out. Before we get into further discussion of this beauty, let’s learn how to pronounce the name properly … “who-moo-who-moo-noo-koo-noo-koo-ah-poo-ah-ah”.
The Humuhumunukunukuapua`a , also called also called the rectangular or Hawaiian triggerfish, was officially designated the state fish of Hawaii on trial basis in 1985 for a period of five years. The trial period and this status quietly ended in 1990. In 2006 it was realized that Hawaii was without a State Fish, and the Humuhumunukunukuapua`awas reinstated on a permanent basis.
The reef triggerfish is distributed throughout the Indo-Pacific region and is especially prominent in the coral reefs of the Hawaiian Islands.
The Humuhumu (a common nickname, “who-moo-who-moo”) has teeth and top lip are blue and its teeth are set close together. A small second spine, which can be used to lock its main spine into an upright position, gives it the ability to wedge itself into small crevices making it extremely difficult for predators (humans included) to get to.
One of the many interesting aspects of the Humuhumu’s behavior is the ability to blow jets of water from its mouth. They 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 usually not tolerate other species in their general vicinity, thus the fish is often found solitary. In addition, when fleeing from predators, the triggerfish will sometimes make grunting noises, possibly a call to warn other nearby triggerfish of danger.
Should you be lucky enough to see these colorful beauties while snorkeling in Hawaii, observe but always give them their space.