Discover the Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, the Official State Fish of Hawaii

Written by Megan Martin
Updated: September 7, 2023
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Hawaii is home to a bright and beautiful diversity of plants and animals. In fact, it is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, with many of the resident species only found in and around the state! While there are over 50 species of fish that call Hawaii home, the official state fish of Hawaii is the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa.

Ready to learn more about this little fish with a big name? Let’s dive right in!

It was the official state fish for only five years before the law expired, and the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa lost its title. In 2006, the Governor of Hawaii permanently instated the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa as the state fish.

What Is the Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa?

Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa is the Hawaiian name for the reef triggerfish, also known as the rectangular triggerfish or the wedgetail triggerfish. Its scientific name is Rhinecanthus rectangulus. This is important to know, as humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa is also used to reference a different species of triggerfish, the lagoon triggerfish (R. aculeatus).

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multi-colored Triggerfish

The name “humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa” comes directly from the Hawaiian language.

©Vladimir Wrangel/Shutterstock.com

How to Pronounce Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa

The name “humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa” comes directly from the Hawaiian language. This means “trigger fish with a snout like a pig.” While you may call the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa by one of its other common names, learning how to pronounce its native name is important, too.

Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa is actually pronounced almost exactly how it is spelled. Phonetically, the state fish of Hawaii’s name is pronounced: who moo who moo new coo new coo ah pah ah wah.

About the Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa

The humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa became the state fish of Hawaii in 1985. It existed as the official state fish for only five years before the law expired, and the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa lost its title. This continued until 2006 when the Governor of Hawaii passed a bill that permanently instated the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa as the state fish.

Appearance

The humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa’s most notable feature is its blue teeth and top lip! Its teeth are close together, which gives its mouth its puckered appearance. They have a small spine on top of their head that allows them to lock themselves into place when inside crevices and caves. This makes it difficult for predators to easily access them.

They have pale bodies with a dark black band and bright yellow and blue markings.

trigger fish with teeth

The triggerfish has a blue upper lip and teeth that are close together, which gives their mouth its puckered appearance.

©Vitaliy 6447/Shutterstock.com

Habitat

As its name suggests, the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa is a reef fish. It inhabits the coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific Oceans, including those surrounding the islands of Hawaii. They prefer to live in the shallower areas of the outer reefs.

Diet

Aquatic invertebrates make up the main diet of the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa. They use their unique mouth shape as a strainer, spitting out streams of water and sifting through the substrate at the bottom of the ocean floor, looking for meals.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Vladimir Wrangel/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Megan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is birds, felines, and sharks. She has been researching and writing about animals for four years, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in biology and professional and technical writing from Wingate University, which she earned in 2022. A resident of North Carolina, Megan is an avid birdwatcher that enjoys spending time with her cats and exploring local zoological parks with her husband.

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