Queen Triggerfish

Balistes vetula

About This Animal

SIZE: 2 ft. (61 cm)

RANGE: Western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico

HABITAT: Coral reefs

DIET: Invertebrates

ON EXHIBIT:  Gulf of Mexico and Secret Reef in both buildings

This fish is especially fond of sea urchins. When a queen triggerfish locates an urchin, it will use its teeth to gently bite down on one of the urchin's spines and lift it off the sea floor. The fish will then turn it so that the urchin falls back to the bottom on its spines, exposing its mouth. This area has no spines, and the triggerfish proceeds to attack this area. On some of the islands in the Caribbean, the locals will dry the triggerfish skin in the sun to use as sandpaper. 

Queen triggerfish are fiercely territorial during the breeding season, when they guard their eggs, and will aggressively chase and bite intruders. Queen triggerfish also possess specialized membranes behind their pectoral fins, which produce a throbbing sound audile to most other fish that warns them to keep away. 

Queen triggerfish are listed as vulnerable under the IUCN redlist, which means that their numbers could decline if habitat continues to degrade or they are overfished.