[Coral-List] Canthigaster population irruption

Steve Coles slcoles at bishopmuseum.org
Mon Sep 16 00:21:19 EDT 2013

Thanks to Les for pointing this out. Apparently this phenomenon was well known to Hawaiians well before European contact. According to a little book by Goodson, 1973, "The Many Splendid Fishes of Hawaii":  Tthe Hawaiian name for some of the file fishes is o‘ili which means "to make a sudden appearance".  The name seems to stem from the fact that certain file fishes, in particular the Fan-tailed File fish Pervagor filosoma,  has strange habit of 'making sudden appearances in great numbers time to time over the years'. The early Hawaiians believed that the appearance of the fishes prophesied the death of the great king or chief. In the spring of 1944 millions of dead fantail filefish were washed up on the beaches of southeastern O‘ahu. They continued coming in for weeks and created a public nuisance. More recently, thousands of fantails were seen floating dead on the ocean surface off Kauai. Strangely, in other years the fish almost absent."

I personally observed such a die off P. spilosoma in the early 1970s off the leeward western shore of O‘ahu.

Steve Coles

From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml..noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Kaufman, Leslie S [lesk at bu.edu]
Sent: Saturday, September 14, 2013 7:22 AM
To: <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Canthigaster population irruption

Hi all.

Part of the old discussion from 2008 was recognition that this kind of event is not uncommon in tetraodontiform fishes (trigger, file, puffer, box, trunk).  The most classic expression is the periodic "larval storm" of Pervagor in the Pacific...though the term larval here is not quite correct: many or most tetraodontiform fishes pass through a pelagic juvenile phase, and it is usually these pelagic juveniles that arrive en masse every so often, with many winding up dead in windrows on beaches.


Les Kaufman
Professor of Biology
Boston University Marine Program
Marine Conservation Fellow
Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Ecosystem Science and Economics
Conservation International
lesk at bu.edu<mailto:lesk at bu.edu>

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