Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Search Challenge (9/24/14): Should I be worried about this fish?

WHILE diving in the Somosomo Strait on September 8th of this year, I found this fish down at 10m, busily picking up chunks of coral and moving them from place to place.  

It's a pretty big fish, around 70 cm / 27 inches tip to tail (and the chunks of coral it was moving were the size of my dive buddy's fist).  The teeth on this thing are also impressive, and seeing what it could do to coral makes me think that I'd prefer to not tangle with this fish. 

And that's today's Search Challenge: 

1.  What IS this fish, and should I worry about it being aggressive? 
2.  If so, WHEN should I worry?  Everyday?  Or just sometimes?
3.  Should I have been worried on the day I took the photo? 

Even though it sounds crazy-hard, this isn't that hard of a problem, but it requires linking together a few different resources.  Can you figure it out?  (Ideally, we should find authoritative resources to answer this.  Can you find them?)  

As always, be sure to tell us what you did to answer the Challenge, and how you figured it out.  

Search on! 

P.S.  I'll get back to the Twain place-names tomorrow.  It's been an overly busy week, unfortunately.  


  1. liked this illustration:
    cone of potential toothy interaction
    seemed to indicate April would be the season of greatest potential mating irritability…
    IDed here:
    thought this was fetching too…
    all in all, the current sounded like the biggest threat?
    did an image scan of Somosomo inhabitants.
    a look:
    in action

  2. Good day, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers

    I think it could be another Parrot Fish. I believe that his fins that looks like a piano can be helpful to identify it. Specially because black pattern looks like triangles.


    [Define Somosomo Strait]
    [Fiji fish moves coral]
    [fish identification fiji]

    Reef Images

    [list of fiji fishes]

    Mullidae, Goatfishes

    Answer: Nothing yet.

  3. p.s. — the "trigger" dorsal isn't extended/locked in your pic… a good indicator of passivity, but that seemingly can change very quickly.
    also some question as to the potential toxicity of any bites resulting from an aggressive encounter, in or out of the cone…
    some examples

    1. Remmij how did you know the dorsal was a "trigger" one? Great links by the way!

      After reading Remmij posts:

      [Define Trigger]

      [Define Trigger fish]

      Triggerfish Wikipedia CTRL-F "Aggresive"

      [Balistoides viridescens]

      [Balistoides viridescens]

      2 Species
      Common names of Balistoides viridescens
      Balistoides viridescens (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)

      [Balistoides viridescens aggressive]

      The Titan Triggerfish is the largest species of triggerfish. It can be aggressive when guarding its nest.
      Titan Triggerfish: Aquarium Domain

      [Balistoides viridescens aggressive diver]

      "Why the aggressive behaviour, one might wonder? Hard to say. While some triggerfish are merely reacting to what they perceive as threats to their nesting grounds - definitely a lesson for divers to respect the habitat of these fish - others seem to do so for the fun of it. This much is clear - titan triggerfish are extremely territorial by nature. The male stands guard over its nest and will charge at any divers or fish that cross into its territory (the zone in a full circle directly above its nest.

      Bites should be taken seriously as they are ciguatoxic. Ciguatoxin is a natural poison which is found on some tropical reefs. It infects fish which feed on marine algae. While harmless to the fish, even small amounts can have a harmful effect on humans. In cases of extreme poisoning, it may cause heart attacks, paralysis or death." Dive The World

      [Define Conspecific]

      [triggerfish mating season]

      When they Attack and what to do? source a.
      National Geographic Triggerfish


      1. What IS this fish, and should I worry about it being aggressive?
      As Remmij found, the fish is called Titan triggerfish In Fiji they are called too Cumu and Cumu quau

      Yes, they are aggresive when guarding they eggs. Swimming upwards can be more dangerous according to Wikipedia.

      2. If so, WHEN should I worry? Everyday? Or just sometimes?

      Mustly everyday and specially males and in mating season

      3. Should I have been worried on the day I took the photo?
      As Remmij posted, Mating season is in April and May. You should be worried because sometimes they attack without reason and as I found they can be very dangerous. If they look at you and his black fin tips rise, then you are in problems.

  4. This morning I picked up my smartphone to see if we had a challenge. I then used my smartphone to do the Image Search and got excellent results. Videos of attacking Titan Trigger fish were in the first results. Not wanting to work using my smartphone I switched to my chromebook and did an image search. Not the same results at all. Have a look.

    I found these results very interesting. I tried manipulating the image to improve the resolution but I my results were no better. Is the original image uploaded to SRS at a fixed resolution? I thought it would be. Or is it based on your device/operating system/application? You can see file dimensions have been changed on the different devices and yet I used the same image search. Can we actually get better results on higher definition devices? I suspect different devices might have different versions of Google Image Search.

    Oh I guess I better do the challenge. Immediately seeing the image I thought of the Parrotfish. So I searched our SRS because I remembered we had found some good sites in that search. These are obviously both coral fish just in different parts of the world. We had used this site as a reliable source, Reef Guide They sound protective of their young and not predatory.

    Mighty fine teeth! However as stated at "They are not venomous, nor do they carry any unusual marine pathogens.” but you still may need medical attention.

    Doing a quick bookmark search I also find a site used before

    1. Followup to my comments about different image results to show what I did next. I took the original image I used on my Chromebook & I decreased the image size (which if I remember correctly increases the resolution/pixels per inch). I took it from 1600 x 1270 reducing it to 400x 318. I did this in Pxlr Editor (sort of a free Photoshop imaging software). I now get similar results which I didn’t know could be done. It appears that the smartphone automatically using an image at higher resolution.

  5. Answer to Question 1.
    What IS this fish, and should I worry about it being aggressive?

    I tried several descriptions on Reverse Image Search (Search by Image) to no avail. I also looked for Somosomo and learned that it is in the Fiji Islands, in the Pacific.

    I was thinking of looking for some fish identification key but I wasn't sure exactly how precise I should be (the entire Pacific, the Fiji, Somosomo or just the islands separated by the strait?)

    Still on Image Search (but not anymore on Search by Image), I started writing [ fiji fish … ] and I noticed that Autocomplete suggested [ fiji fish identification ]. Lucky find indeed: several posters with tropical fish. The second poster shown (from Project AWARE) includes a very similar fish: Titan Triggerfish. Because I didn't open the image, I read Titan Tigerfish, so that's what I googled. Google's error correction was helpful: "Showing results for titan triggerfish". Reading the small Wikipedia article was enough to convince me that, unless the questions are purposefully misleading (which is not the kind of trick usually played here), this is indeed the fish in the photo.

    The Wikipedia page reads "The titan triggerfish is usually wary of divers and snorkelers, but during the reproduction season the female guards its nest […] vigorously against any intruders. […] divers who accidentally enter it may be attacked."

    In order to check when is the reproduction season, I decided to go directly to FishBase, the most authoritative database I know and I've been using for long years. The common name Titan Triggerfish corresponds to one species only, Balistoides viridescens. Unfortunately, this fish's Summary page does not have any meaningful data on their reproduction. However, they point to a scientific article by Gladstone, W., 1994. If I search its title [ Lek-like spawning, parental care and mating periodicity of the triggerfish ], the first line yielded is a suggestion to look for "Scholarly articles for…" The article is not available in full for free and although I could get access to it through my university proxy, I decided to use another approach. In the meantime, the thorough description of the species corresponded exactly to the photo, so now I'm pretty confident that this is indeed the Titan Triggerfish.

  6. Answer to Questions 2. And 3.
    If so, WHEN should I worry? Everyday? Or just sometimes?
    Should I have been worried on the day I took the photo?

    So I went for the simple search [ titan triggerfish reproduction season ]. Two of the results have April-May right on their snippets but they are web forums and both have misspellings ("Theirr breeding season" and "they will protect there nest"), so I don't trust them. From the related searches on the bottom of the SERP, I get that "breeding season" or "nesting season" could be good searches too, and maybe also "mating season", although mating is of course before nesting, and I have no idea if it's days or months before.

    Next search: [ titan triggerfish reproduction | breeding | nesting season ]. Results on the first page are not much more promising. I decided to open the last link, because it's from an .org domain ( "The Most Dangerous Fish" is a page on that site claiming to be
    Authoritative • Independent • Nonprofit
    and quoting Forbes as having written
    "Best of the Web ... scuba tips no other source dares to publish"
    The link to the supposed Forbes article is broken though.

    Searching on that page for April or May, nevertheless, I found this sentence: "Max Benjamin, Walindi Plantation Resort owner, says May and late October through November seem to be the times they're protecting eggs in his part of the world." Well, so I hadn't thought of this but apparently reproduction season can depend on the part of the world, which makes sense. The Walindi Plantation Resort is about 3,500 km (2,180 miles) away from the Somosomo Strait and I have no idea if this is close enough for the reproduction seasons to be the same.

    Now [ fiji titan triggerfish reproduction | breeding | nesting season ] give what seem to be a little better results, including a page with great stories of encounters with the Titan Triggerfish, on Lonely Planet's "Thorn Tree" forum. An article on the AquaViews online scuba magazine ("Trigger Happy- Diving With The Feisty Titan Triggerfish") seems to be well informed but not only it also has spelling errors ("when guarding it’s nest") but the only comment is an unanswered "Would be interesting to know the time of year it mates."

    Could this be a male fish and therefore not posing any threat? Well, I don’t know. Apparently, from the several pages I’ve read, it’s hard to impossible to tell them apart.

    After a few more attempts, including searching both [ fiji "Balistoides viridescens" season ] and [ fiji "Balistoides viridescens" reproduction | breeding | nesting ] on both Scholar and Books, I just had to quit. The best way to find this information with accuracy may be to contact the local authorities.

  7. also known as the mustachio triggerfish, for some reason… ;-{ - (well shown in profile in Dan's pic) …
    a cousin:
    stone trigger
    trigger described here:
    "Notice the ‘trigger’, a stiff, retractable spine at the front of the dorsal fin. Triggerfish hide in holes when spooked. They can raise the spine to lock themselves into the hole so that nothing can pull them out and eat them. A bit of tail may be all that’s lost".

    fwiw: the difference between mobile and regular operating systems search results is an interesting topic Rosemary… perhaps Dan will address?? am curious - did you use a voice or text query on your phone, using Droid/Chrome?

  8. demonstrating the coral carrying behavior Dan described, in shallower waters -
    coral chunk

  9. The Official Website of Tourism Fiji maps the diving sites and companies. For the Somosomo Islands, the local diving companies are Taveuni Dive and Dolphin Bay Divers. My next step would be to ask them directly, and also Tourism Fiji themselves. In spite of their interest in having people going there and using their services, I believe we might obtain a good answer.

  10. Titan Trigger fish (Balistoides viridescens) just like amy fellow searchers.
    But I will be rather cautious about the aggressive behavior of the fish. It may be very agressive as pointed by the other searchers but I'm not quite sure there's is specific month. According to this scholar paper:
    the reproduction occurs on a monthly basis, in correlation with moon phases. (Two Indo-West Pacific triggerfish species, Balistoides viridescens and Pseudobalistes flavimarginatus (Balistidae), however, form spawning aggregations just prior to both new and full moons, and are noteworthy in that they spawn demersally with males arriving at the spawning aggregation site first to defend nesting sites and then attracting females to spawn in them.) the first day of the new or full moon being the last day of the reproduction period. Following days seem to be less dangerous. (Post-spawning defense of the nest site as the next moon phase (third or first quarter) approaches has not been observed, however.). September 8th being the first day of the full moon, I'd rather have wait 1 or 2 days before trying to pet it.

    1. excellent find passager — using 9/8, the Harvest Moon… Dr.Dan would be wise to remember this info when mooning any fish with the teeth & attitude of the Balistoides viridescens…
      lunar phase
      wonder if this will rile the Titans?
      10/08 across the Pacific

    2. Moon Phase around fish is new and very interesting. Thanks Passager!

      Slooh link is very good, Remmij!

      [Moon Phase AROUND(3) Balistoides viridescens]

      More on TriggerFish. no Moon mentioned here. Males most colorful

      [moon phase around(3) fish behavior]
      Moon Phase a Myth?

    3. Mr.R´G´, - have to like it when the "12s" align… the Titans were snapping.
      12:12:12:12 & ticking -dark sea moon (Slooh)

    4. [Triggerfish around(3) Parrot fish]

      What is Fish and Shellfish Poisoning? Johns Hopkins Medicine
      PARROTFISH, TRIGGERFISH AND OTHER CORAL-EATING REEF FISHt Triggerfish are relatives of blowfish.

      With this query, I found the fish finally!! [coral reef eating fishes]

      Coral reef fish, Wikipedia. Also searched on Google images with that query and found the same fish Dr. Russell posted only in different angle.

      TriggerFish Image

      [Noaa Triggerfish]

      Gray triggerfish

      juvenile Triggerfish

  11. PUBLISH still vanishes comments here is PREVIEW - I hope

    Search [tropical reef fish ID] found (eventually) had images one of which suggested triggerfish. So searched [triggerfish] images and there is the Titan Triggerfish at

    Which has gorgeous pix of your beast Balistoides viridescensa and a curious write-up:

    Cupcake ipsum dolor sit amet soufflé chupa chups powder. Fruitcake brownie gummi bears bonbon. Applicake gummi bears marzipan gummi bears sweet chocolate cupcake. Lemon drops cake chocolate bar. Wafer tootsie roll chocolate bar wafer powder danish sesame snaps. Dragée marzipan pie gummi bears candy tootsie roll cake danish chupa chups. Dragée muffin cupcake carrot cake chocolate bar cookie. Jujubes jujubes gingerbread croissant sweet muffin topping.

    2 & 3.

    Titan triggerfish spawn for about 4 days a month. The male will guard the nest and blow water over the eggs, ensuring a good supply of fresh water and oxygen...Although nesting or not, the male is usually aggressive and can attack unprovoked; a female guarding her nest can be equally aggressive. They will deftly defend the nest even against intruders much bigger than themselves.

    The nest of the titan triggerfish is usually in a flat sandy area amongst the corals, an area that it will defend with a passion. Mating season is a particularly aggressive time during which the trigger fish becomes even more territorial than usual. The teeth, designed for crunching through hard shells and coral, can inflict serious wounds on any would-be intruders.

    Titan triggerfish won't always resort to violence though, on occasion just swimming at the intruder, usually a diver or snorkeller, to provide them with an escort out of the nesting territory. However, should a colourful male titan happen to charge in your direction, it's best to do away with bravado and retreat, using your fins as a barrier between you and the fish.

    They are diurnal, active in the day sleeping at night. So a night visit safer.

    3. Your fish appears to be rolled over somewhat to get a better view of the intruder--you. The posterior dorsal fin is erect indicating its concern but its anterior dorsal is not up-yet indicating its not really concerned. also has a forum where members can submit an image for IDing. Confirms all of the above.

    Great video

    Great site is
    ...Max Benjamin, Walindi Plantation Resort owner, says May and late October through November seem to be the times they're protecting eggs in his part of the world. "Without a doubt, those big bastards are the most dangerous animal in Papua New Guinea."

    1. Yes you should be concerned and safe.
    2. Always cautious but especially May and late October thru November
    3. You were OK because you swam away horizontally on your back keeping the fins between yourself and the fish.

    There are sure amazing fish in those waters. This was a great project.


    jon tU

    1. Jon ... The "curious write-up" appears to have been filler text generated by, "the cupcake ipsum sugar-coated lorem ipsum generator."

      Filler text is used by graphics folks to design page layouts before the final text is ready. "Lorem ipsum" is the classic filler text, dating back to the 1500s (

      Of course, all filler text is supposed to be removed and replaced with the real text before publication, but sometimes, by accident or carelessness, it is not.

    2. A good tasty find. I have dazzled all my grandkids with a spot of Cupcake now. I wonder what they will make of it.


  12. [triggerfish] finds this curious item:

    What's in a name? An analysis of the West Nggela (Solomon Islands) fish taxonomy. Involved lining up the local name with the Linnean name.

    Our fish is Kukupi in the local lingo meaning 'thick lips'

    jon tU

    1. Jon tU thanks for sharing another name for this fish, now in Gela language Very interesting. I wonder if they have even more than those we already know (88.)

      Remmij, I liked the "12s" aligned, thanks! Maybe you should buy a lottery ticket those are lots of 12's