[Coral-List] surgeonfish spines as weapons

Capman, William capman at augsburg.edu
Mon Jun 20 10:56:39 EDT 2016

It is not uncommon for tangs (e.g. Zebrasoma and Paracanthurus species)
kept in aquaria to slash at other fish (usually other tangs, but also any
other fish that are aggressive toward them) during disputes.  Often there
is no damage to the other fish, but I have had clownfish that were
aggressive toward tangs (protecting clutches of eggs) occasionally get
slash wounds (one female percula clown came close to losing an eye, which
prompted me to move that pair to a different aquarium without tangs).  I've
occasionally seen slash wounds on other tangs too.

Also, I was once slashed by a Paracanthurus when moving it between
tanks...it was like a cut from a razor blade.

None of my observations above are from the wild, but such observations are
commonplace for those keeping tangs in aquaria.
On Jun 20, 2016 9:37 AM, "Robinson, Michael P" <MPRobinson at barry.edu> wrote:

Dear coral-listers,

Does anyone have observations of any species of surgeonfish (Acanthuridae)
using their caudal spines as weapons?  That is the conventional wisdom on
the function of these spines, but I am interested in evidence of their use.

For example, there is a photo in Jack Randall's _Surgeonfishes of the
World_ of wounds on a surgeonfish that match the  size and shape of a
conspecific's spines.

If you have any evidence or observations of a surgeonfish using its
spine(s) either defensively or aggressively, I would love to hear about
it.  Anything is appreciated: photos, videos or stories.

If you prefer, send me a private email and I will post a summary to the

Thanks in advance!
Mike Robinson

mprobinson at barry.edu
Barry University


Michael P. Robinson, Asst. Prof.

Dept. of Biology, Barry University

11300 NE 2 AVE, Miami Shores FL 33161-6695

mprobinson at mail.barry.edu<mailto:mprobinson at mail.barry.edu>
office & lab: NHS 216B

office: 305-899-4930;   lab: 305-899-3909;   fax: 305-899-3225

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