School of striped convict tang

Striped convict tang

Acanthurus triostegus

Hanauma Bay
O'ahu, Hawai'i

Hanauma Bay is a popular tourist spot and a short drive from Honolulu. On any given day the parking lot is packed with rental convertibles and the beach awash with roasting sunbathers. The quiet shallows attract many first time snorkelers but most avoid the rough surge beyond the breakwater reef.

The striped convict tang, or manini in Hawaiian, is a common fish in Hawaiian waters. It is a member of the family Acanthuridae, the surgeonfishes. They have a bony knob between their eyes and retractable spines on their caudal peduncle. That's a fancy name for the section between the tail and body. If you were a predator this would be an important piece of information to know before biting down on one. The ornate moorish idol, Zanclus canescens, is the single member of the family without knobs on their noses or spines on their behinds.

Surgeonfishes are cattle of the sea, grazing on algae on reef and rock surfaces. They can be found in the lower Gulf of California as well as Indo-Pacific places like Hawai'i. Last I checked, they are not found in the western Atlantic (e.g., Caribbean) or eastern Pacific. But you never know when one of them might show up there on vacation.

Did you know?

The state fish of Hawai'i is a small timid triggerfish called the humuhumunukunukuapua'a (pronounced 'humu humu 'nuku nuku 'a pu a 'a). A much more interesting name than reef triggerfish or Rhinecanthus rectangulus. I've been told the Hawaiian name means 'fish that grunts like a pig' because of the sound it makes when it expels silt while feeding. An old Hawaiian fish wives' tail, tale?
 


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