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Hawaii's Reef Fishes
The trunkfishes, also popularly known as boxfishes, are unique in possessing a bony carapace of polygonal plates with gaps for the mouth, gill opening, caudal peduncle, and fins. The carapace may be triangular, quadrangular, pentagonal, hexagonal, or nearly round in cross-section; its surface is usually rough due to small tubercles on the plates.
Some of the species have stout spines which project from the carapace. The mouth is small and low on the head; the gill opening is a short near-vertical slit. There are no spines in the fins; the dorsal and anal fins are posterior in position, usually with 9 rays; there are no pelvic fins.
As would be expected from their bony armor and boxy shape, trunkfishes are slow swimmers; the usual progression is by a sculling action of the dorsal and anal fins; the caudal fin is brought into play when the fishes want to move faster.
They feed on a wide variety of benthic animals, especially sessile forms such as tunicates and sponges; many also ingest large amounts of algae. Some trunkfishes, at least, secrete a skin toxin when under stress.
Six species are recorded from the Hawaiian Islands; one of these occurs only in deep water. Another, Ostracion cubicus, is known from Hawaii from only one specimen and one sighting.
Ostracion meleagris (Shaw & Nodder, 1796 ) Moa (Male)
Ostracion meleagris (Shaw & Nodder, 1796 ) Moa (Female)
Males blue on side with numerous small black spots; upper surface of carapace brown with white spots; some orange spots along upper caudal penducle, dorsal ridge, and eye; females brown with small white spots; carapace quadrangular, the sides concave, the upper and lower surfaces convex. Largest, 6.2 inches (15.7 cm). Indo-Pacific; subspecifically different in Hawai'i, Ostracion meleagris camurum Jenkins.
Ostracion whitleyi (Fowler, 1931) Moa (Female)
Males dark grayish blue with white spots on the back and an irregular black-edged white stripe along the ridges, the upper continuing across head in front of eyes; females yellowish brown with small white spots to the level of lower edge of eye; a broad white stripe on side; carapace similar to that of O. meleagris, but the ridges sharper, and there is a low ridge ventrally at front of carapace. Largest, 6.3 inches (16 cm). Hawaiian Islands to French Polynesia; rare in Hawai'i, especially the male form.
All information and pictures in this section are from John E. Randall's Shore Fishes of Hawai'i by permission of the author.
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