Triggerfish,underwater thug,gangster

(titan trigger)

I swear,if ever i were to acknowledge intelligence in a fish,the titan trigger fish will rate highly as a candidate in my book. There have been a few undesirable encounters with this particular species and they have been quite memorable.
In tropical waters where they thrive,and where there is diving activity,dive professionals operating those places are actually more wary of the triggerfish than they are of the other
potentially aggresive marine animals.

Reef sharks ...only when provoked or spooked,becomes aggresive but behaviour predictable for the divers who can recognise the signs of aggression thus can anticipate or avoid the confrontation, stonefishes,scorpionfishes and other marine critters with venomous spines can be avoided if the pro knows where to look and what to avoid.
In fact most marine creatures that may have harmful or aggresive tendencies can be easily avoided and mishaps prevented from happening under a very experienced dive pro.

As for the triggerfish,especially the titan triggerfish, whenever they are sighted while diving,the diver needs to be very cautious when they are around. With a reputation of being very territorial, triggerfishes can get very protective over their home turf. esp. their nests, whatever that ventures too close for comfort will be fiercely chased away.! Which is why so many incidences with divers and triggerfishes happen..

The average diver when underwater usually glides nonchalantly over the reef and might not realise they have wandered right next to the triggerfish nest, and thus provokes the fish into drastic measures to deal with the perceived invasion, At first,they give warning charges at the target,( fish or diver) And if after few warning charges are unheeded, then they will actually change tactics and ram into the target with their very powerful jaws.

AS a dive pro for so many years,i have had my share of encounters,and if you have been rammed by a trigger,it feels like someone just whack you with a hammer.

They usually get you from the rear, sneak attack.Luckier victims get rammed on their swim fins,

or scuba tank, But at times they aim for the legs, and god forbid,the head., in which case,the force is enough to open up a nasty gash that requires stitching and knock the diver unsconscious and cause a serious concussion. (Horror stories i can tell about being at the receiving end or a witness to these ramming attcks.) I have seen nasty gashes inflicted on a fellow diver who happens to be a doctor,on his skull,he had to stich himself ,3 stiches the wound needed, Few years back,a fellow professional got rammed on right side of the head and very unfortunately the fish decided to take a nip on his earlobe and almost bit it off, (seriously this actually happened in Redang island Malaysia where i work) Just as well,doctors were able to reattach this colleague's almost severed earlobe after the incident.

Yet the titan is not always aggresive,most times when they are spotted,and seen grazing around,they are quite docile,the diver can get very close to it observing it as it feeds on sea urchins or picking at the sea bottom for crustaceans.

Quite intriguing to watch,they actually demonstrate slight intelligence when feeding. Can observe them sucking water into their mouths then blow into the sandy bottom to force the crustaceans hiding in the sand out and they just pick them off. Or watch it feed on sea urchins,i have seen the fish delicately pick up the urchin with it's mouth,swim backwards up higher then drop the urchin on a coral head to turn it over so they can get at the bottom fleshy part of the urchin.

Maybe its my perception, about this fish having slight intelligence, but its does learn from experience. There used to be a triggerfish in a reef which our dive community named mr. Nasty,
because was very territorial and never docile.Everytime divers encroaches its turf in a coral patch,it will without fail,charge at the divers.But then,before that ,it actually hides itself in the coral head,so divers dont actually know its there .

For a time, it will come out of its hiding spot at last possible minute and charge at the 1st diver

in a group,but usually that 1st diver will be the dive guide or leader armed with a metal rod or

pointer to ward it off or prod it if it came too close.

After some time ,it was noticed that mr. Nasty has changed its tactics. Instead of the 1st diver,it will then wait for the group of divers to pass before it sneakily comes out from its hiding place and charges at the last diver in file.Got to a point when it actually was decided it had become too much of a menace to the diving community and had to go.Many divers got injured. But sadly,only way to remove it as a threat was to use a spear gun.

There are certain periods during the year when they are to be avoided like a plaque. Nesting season,Usually june to August depending on geographic location. Nesting season is when both females and males work together to lay their eggs and guard their nests and they do so very thoroughly. There will be a perimeter surrounding the nest which nothing is allowed to encroach,anything that moves which wanders into this area will be sternly chased off.

Both the male and female guard their eggs and nest very aggresively.The male patrols the outer perimeter and chases off intruders and the female guards the immediate vicinity of the nest,and generally is the more aggresive of the pair.

Dive guides will be on high alert for trigger nests during nesting season because it is almost guaranteed that the trigger fish will charge at anything that ventures near its nest.

From a distance,when diver sees titan triggerfishes,few questions come to mind.Is the fish swimming aggresively chasing other fishes? Is the triggerfish swimming around in a same area occasionally tilting to it side?( thats when its scoping the upper area,they have cone vision so when in patrol mode they swim straight and then tilted to scope a larger area for signs of intruders ) More importantly, is there a pair in a small area? (sure sign of nesting) If diving along sandy bottoms , look out for indentations(craters) in the sea bottom where its has clumps of coral in the centre? (Triggerfish build their nest like birds, they swim around looking for loose bits of broken coral to build their nests.,after using their mouths to suck in water and then blow a small crater in the sandy bottom,the corals are stacked into the middle of the crater,where eventually they deposit their eggs)

Swim away from theses signs, make a beeline around them,or swim up and above maintaining a respectful distance so you dont go too close,otherwise it is an invitation for disaster.

(red tooth)

There are many species of Triggerfishes,and marjority of them are none threatening,the most aggresive of the types of triggerfishes is the Titan trigger,then there is the yellow margined triggers, more docile than the titan,normally not known to charge divers but gets aggresive also when nesting.Also the red tooth triggers.

(clown trigger)

( yellow margined trigger)

AS for the other types of triggerfishes , they are to be admired,patterns on their bodies can be very strikingly colorful and unique. There is the clown trigger(my personal favourite) its a beautiful fish or the picasso trigger.,boomerang trigger,patterns on their body are really attractive,and they are all none aggresive at all.

Only the Titan trigger fish is to be respected and be cautious when they are around as most dive pros will advice you.

(boomerang trigger)

(picasso trigger)


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