Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The queen triggerfish is often found drifting close to the bottom, where it feeds on a range of molluscs, crustaceans and echinoderms (4). The strong jaws and long teeth of this fish enable it to bite through the hard body parts of these marine creatures with ease (4). It specialises on feeding on a particular sea urchin (Diadema antillarium), and has evolved an ingenious way of tackling this spiny prey; it blows water under the sea urchin to overturn it, exposing the part of the sea urchin where the spines are shortest (2). Little information is available on the breeding biology of this species, although it is known that triggerfish lay eggs which stick to corals, rocks and algae (4). The eggs are somewhat protected by being camouflaged (4), and are also apparently guarded by the male (2). As adults, queen triggerfish are protected by the erectile spine on their backs. If threatened, the triggerfish will retreat into a crevice in the reef, the spine on its back locks into position, and the predator is unable to remove the fish from its shelter (4).
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Description

The deep-bodied queen triggerfish has suitably regal colouring; it is a flamboyant, and variable, mixture of blue, green and yellow, which can be light or dark depending on the fish's mood (3), and vivid blue lines pattern the head and the fins (2). Triggerfish are named after the spines situated on their backs. The first large spine can be erected and then locked into place by the second smaller spine which fits into a groove in the first spine (3). This clever locking mechanism enables triggerfish to wedge themselves into crevices when they feel threatened (3), and the first spine can only be folded away when the second 'trigger' spine is depressed (2). The eyes, which are set high on the fish's head (2), are capable of moving independently of each other (4), and the small mouth bears large, stout teeth (2).
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Comprehensive Description

Biology

Found over rocky or coral areas (Ref. 5217). May form schools, sometimes solitary over sand and grassy areas. Feeds mainly on benthic invertebrates (Ref. 4727). It preys on sea urchins by blowing water to overturn it and then attacks it where the spines are short (Ref. 9710). Excellent food fish but occasionally can cause intoxication due to the liver.
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Distribution

Western Atlantic: Massachusetts, USA and northern Gulf of Mexico to southeastern Brazil
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Atlantic in warm seas.
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Eastern Atlantic: Ascension, Cape Verde, and Azores (Ref. 7348); ranges south to southern Angola (Ref. 4420). Western Atlantic: Canada (Ref. 5951) to Massachusetts, USA and northern Gulf of Mexico to southeastern Brazil (Ref. 7251).
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Range

Occurs in the Atlantic Ocean (1), from Bermuda and the northern Gulf of Mexico, south to Brazil, and east to Ascension Island and the eastern Atlantic (2).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Dorsal spines (total): 3; Dorsal soft rays (total): 29 - 32; Analspines: 0; Analsoft rays: 27 - 29
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Size

Maximum size: 600 mm TL
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Max. size

60.0 cm TL (male/unsexed; (Ref. 7251)); max. published weight: 5,440 g (Ref. 4699)
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Diagnostic Description

Greenish or bluish gray on back, orange-yellow on lower part of head and abdomen, with two broad diagonal curved bright blue bands running from snout to below and in front of pectoral fins, the lowermost continuous with a blue ring around lips; a broad blue bar across caudal peduncle, and blue sub-marginal bands in median fins (Ref. 13442).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species is found over rocky bottoms and is often associated with reefs. It is also found on shallow sandy or grassy areas (Randall 1967) to the upper slope of the deep reef (100 m) (Aiken 1975). It forms schools but may also be observed solitary over sandy and grassy habitats. The Queen Triggerfish is found in depths from 2-275 m, however it is more commonly seen at 10-98 feet (3-30 m). It displays marked movement from the shallows to deeper water with increasing size (Aiken 1975). Diadema antillarum has been reported to be the primary prey item for this species, after mass mortality of the sea urchin in the Caribbean, crabs and chitons were recorded to replace the sea urchin (Reinthal et al. 1984). Prey items include macroalgae, bivalves, crabs, starfish, sea cucumbers, shrimp, and polychaetes. Male Queen Triggerfish establish territories of approximately 10 m in diameter, attracting several females. Nests are built in the sand by moving fins rapidly or creating a current by blowing water with the mouth near the bottom to create sand bowls. The eggs are released into these bowls after a courtship ritual. The nest is defended by the mating pair, reproduction occurs year-round, peaking in the fall and again in the winter. In Jamaica, fishes with ripe gonads were reported in February and May (Munro et al. 1973). Ripe fishes were collected all through the year except in April and June. Maxima of spawning were found between January and February and the period August to October. Most of the species specimens were small maturing individuals, suggesting movement into deeper water in maturation (Aiken 1975). There is indirect evidence of this species forming spawning aggregations from the Netherlands Antilles, St. Croix, and Puerto Rico (Hughes et al. 2013).

The maximum length: 60.0 cm (TL), (Randall 1968); mean length at 1st maturity: 23-27 cm (FL) (Aiken 1975); maximum age: 7 years (Manooch and Drennon 1987); 16 years in Central Brazil (Albuquerque et al. 2011). In Jamaica (Aiken 1975) size at 1st maturity (males): 17.5 cm (FL); size at 1st maturity (females): 16.5 cm (FL); size at full recruitment: 23-24 cm (FL).

In Brazil, growth parameters: L = 50.4 cm, K = 0.76 (1/year). The natural mortality coefficient (M) = 1.15, while the fishery mortality coefficient (F) =1.49. The exploitation rate estimated (0.56) for this study indicate that this species was under fishery pressure since the fishery exploitation coefficient was superior to what this population can stand, in spite of the fact that the growth parameters were bigger now than in previous studies done in the central region of Brazil (Freitas Netto and Madeira di Beneditto 2010). Maximum age determined by marginal increment analysis of dorsal spines off the Central Coast of Brazil was 16 years, with maximum fork length of 460 mm (Albuquerque et al. 2011).

The generation length for this species was based on that of Balistes capriscus, which was estimated at 4-8 years. Thus, the time window for calculating population declines is 12-24 years.

Systems
  • Marine
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Depth range based on 316 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 254 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 1293
  Temperature range (°C): 22.078 - 28.067
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.115 - 3.505
  Salinity (PPS): 34.217 - 37.096
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.285 - 5.017
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.039 - 0.286
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.805 - 5.080

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0 - 1293

Temperature range (°C): 22.078 - 28.067

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.115 - 3.505

Salinity (PPS): 34.217 - 37.096

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.285 - 5.017

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.039 - 0.286

Silicate (umol/l): 0.805 - 5.080
 
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Depth: 2 - 275m.
From 2 to 275 meters.

Habitat: reef-associated. May form schools, sometimes solitary over sand and grassy areas. Occurs at 28 °C. Feeds mainly on bottom-living invertebrates (Ref. 4727). It preys on sea urchins by blowing water to overturn it and then attacks it where the spines are short (Ref. 9710). Excellent food fish but occasionally can cause intoxication due to the liver.
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Environment

reef-associated; marine; depth range 2 - 275 m (Ref. 4727), usually 3 - 30 m (Ref. 40849)
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Depth range based on 316 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 254 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 1293
  Temperature range (°C): 22.078 - 28.067
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.115 - 3.505
  Salinity (PPS): 34.217 - 37.096
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.285 - 5.017
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.039 - 0.286
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.805 - 5.080

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0 - 1293

Temperature range (°C): 22.078 - 28.067

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.115 - 3.505

Salinity (PPS): 34.217 - 37.096

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.285 - 5.017

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.039 - 0.286

Silicate (umol/l): 0.805 - 5.080
 
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The queen triggerfish inhabits coral reefs and nearby sandy and rubble areas, from shallow waters down to depths of 50 metres (3).
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Trophic Strategy

Found in coral reef environments, near the bottom, from shallow sandy or grassy areas to the upper slope of the reef. Employs different feeding behaviours to capture and manipulate different type of prey, for example, it uses suction feeding to capture worms and other soft prey, while it feeds on crabs and sea urchins by directly biting off parts of the prey (Ref. 45549). Sessile invertebrate feeder (Ref. 57616).
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Balistes vetula

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 7 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

ACACGTTGACTCTTTTCAACTAACCATAAAGACATCGGCACCCTTTACCTAATCTTTGGTGCTTGGGCTGGGATAGTGGGCACAGCTTTA---AGCCTTCTAATCCGAGCAGAATTAAGCCAACCCGGCGCCCTTCTAGGCGAT---GATCAAATTTATAATGTTATCGTCACAGCACATGCTTTCGTGATAATTTTCTTTATAGTAATACCAATTATAATTGGAGGATTTGGAAACTGACTCATTCCCTTAATA---ATTGGAGCCCCCGACATGGCCTTCCCTCGAATAAATAATATGAGCTTCTGACTCCTTCCCCCTTCTTTACTCCTCCTCCTCGCTTCCTCAAGCGTAGAAGCTGGGGCCGGAACCGGATGAACAGTATATCCCCCTCTTGCAGGGAACCTCGCCCATGCAGGAGCCTCTGTTGATTTA---ACCATCTTTTCACTGCATCTAGCAGGGATCTCATCAATTCTAGGGGCAATTAATTTTATTACAACAATTATTAATATGAAACCCCCTGCCATTTCTCAATATCAAACACCATTGTTTGTCTGAGCAGTTCTAATTACAGCTGTTCTCCTCCTCCTATCCCTTCCCGTCCTAGCCGCC---GGAATTACAATACTCCTCACCGATCGAAACTTAAATACCACATTCTTTGATCCTGCAGGAGGTGGTGACCCCATCCTCTACCAACACCTATTTTGATTCTTTGGCCACCCCGAAGTATATATTCTTATTCTCCCTGGCTTCGGAATGATTTCCCACATTGTTGCCTATTATTCAGGTAAAAAA---GAACCCTTCGGTTATATAGGAATAGTCTGAGCCATGATGGCCATCGGCCTCCTTGGTTTTATCGTATGAGCCCACCACATGTTTACAGTCGGAATGGATGTTGACACCCGAGCCTATTTCACCTCTGCCACAATAATTATTGCAATTCCAACGGGGGTAAAAGTATTTAGCTGATTA---GCCACACTACACGGGGGC---GCAATTAAATGAGAAACTCCACTCTTATGAGCCCTAGGCTTTATTTTTCTGTTTACAGTAGGAGGCCTAACAGGTATTGTTTTAGCAAACTCATCACTTGATATTGTACTTCACGACACATACTATGTAGTAGCCCACTTCCATTACGTC---CTGTCAATGGGAGCCGTCTTCGCCATCGTTGCCGCCTTCGTCCACTGATTCCCCCTGTTTTCTGGTTATACCCTTCATAATACATGAACAAAAATTCACTTTGGAGTAATATTTGTTGGAGTCAACCTCACATTCTTCCCACAACACTTCCTAGGTTTAGCTGGAATGCCTCGA---CGCTACTCGGACTACCCTGATGCCTACACA---TTATGAAACACAGTTTCTTCAATTGGGTCTCTCGTATCTTTAGTGGCCGTAATTTTATTCCTGTTTATTATTTGAGAAGCATTTGCAGCCAAACGAGAAGTC---CTGTCCGTCGAACTTACTTCCACAAAC
-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Balistes vetula

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 9
Specimens with Barcodes: 32
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2015

Assessor/s
Jing, L., Zapfe, G., Shao, K.-T., Leis, J.L., Matsuura, K., Hardy, G., Liu, M. & Tyler, J.

Reviewer/s
Cox, N.A.

Contributor/s

Justification
Balistes vetula is widely distributed and inhabits a variety of habitats, including rocky bottoms, reefs, and shallow sandy or grassy areas. It is also an important commercial fish in Brazil with declines reported from 2001-2006. Due to similarities in size and habitat requirements, we infer B. vetula has similar life history characteristics as Balistes capriscus, therefore a generation length of 4-8 years was used for this assessment.

Population declines of up to 99% over about 20 years are reported in the Gulf of Guinea and up to 90% from 2001-2006 in parts of Brazil. We infer populations are also declining in West Africa and the Caribbean based on fisheries catches in those regions. Traditionally, the Queen Triggerfish has been underutilized by fisheries off the southeastern continental U.S.A., but it is more abundant in the Caribbean and comprises a considerable portion of reef fish landings in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Since a large part of its range occurs off northeastern North America, where fishing pressure is suspected to be lower, we infer that global population declines are less than, but likely approaching, what was recently observed for B. capriscus (31-32% over three generation lengths). It is therefore assessed as Near Threatened as it nearly meets the 30% reduction threshold for the VU category under criterion A2bd.

History
  • 1996
    Vulnerable (VU)
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Status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
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Population

Population
Gulf of Mexico
Relatively little species-specific quantitative population data in the Gulf of Mexico are available to us at this time. It is taken in small numbers as bycatch in the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Fishery; it most frequently is taken by long-line, but also by hand-line (Scott-Denton et al. 2011). In deep-reef surveys in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, this species co-occurred with the commercially important B. capriscus (which was among the top 25 most abundant species) at deep reefs with live coral cover ranging in depths from 45-85 meters (Weaver et al. 2006). In the Campeche Bank, this species occurred in 3.3% of underwater visual censuses of reef areas (n=120: H. Prez-Espaa, unpublished data).

Southeast U.S.
Reef fish assemblage structure was assessed in 2006-2007 in Biscayne National Park, Florida, USA, and compared with data collected from 1977 to 1981. The percent frequency of occurrence from 1977 to 1981 was 3.5, while from 2006-2007 it was 0.0. This species is not targeted by fisheries in this region (Kellison et al. 2012).

Caribbean Sea
Traditionally, the Queen Triggerfish has been underutilized by fisheries off the southeastern continental U.S.A., but it is more abundant in the Caribbean and comprises a considerable portion of reef fish landings in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Although the species is taken by both traps and hook and line, 95% of all Queen Triggerfish landings from the U.S.Virgin Islands in 1983-1984 were taken in traps. The Queen Triggerfish comprises ~ 22% by weight of the total trap catch of the Islands and 10-15% of the total landings (Manooch and Drennon 1987). Traps in algal plains in the U.S. Virgin Islands contained the most fish, and 50% of censused B. vetula (Garrison et al. 2004).

In Jamaica, the highest catch rate was at the Pedro Cays between 11 to 20 m depth where it comprised nearly 60% of the total catch by number and 52.41% by weight. In general, this species comprised, by both number and weight, the most abundant of all species caught in traps at all parts of Pedro Bank. A very rough estimate of numerical CPUE in unexploited areas averaged in terms of depth zones amounts to 2,900 fishes/1,000 hexagonal trap-nights. If natural mortality rate is 2.6, the mean recruitment index, R, for Pedro Bank is about 7,500 fish (Aiken 1975).

Commercial catches from the U.S. Virgin Islands ranged from approximately 90,000 to 130,000 lbs from 2000 to 2008. In Puerto Rico, commercial catches ranged from approximately 33,000 lbs to 122,000 lbs from 1988 to 2009, averaging 70,000 since 2000. It is taken as by-catch in commercial long-line and vertical line fisheries, and is a component of small-scale fisheries (Heyman et al. 2012). It is also harvested in recreational fisheries.

Brazil
In small villages of Brazil, parts of this fish are used in traditional medicine in the treatment of asthma, ear aches, and stroke victims. In Brazil, capture production for this species occurs in the states of Ceara and Espirito Santo, with the latter comprising the biggest national harvest at 4,225 tons/year. Fishery statistics report by IBAMA (Brazilian Environmental Agency) indicate a decrease in the national production between the years 2001 (7,774 tons/year) and 2006 (732 tons/year) (IBAMA 2006). Despite the decrease in landings, effort has increased by 25% in Espirito Santo and by 16.5% in Bahia State (Santos 2005). The exploitation rate estimated (0.56) for this study indicates that this species was under fishery pressure since the fishery exploitation coefficient was superior to what this population can stand, in spite of the fact that the growth parameters were bigger now than in previous studies done in the central region of Brazil (Freitas Netto and Madeira di Beneditto 2010).

Eastern Atlantic
Triggerfish catch drastically declined from 18,610 tonnes in 1986 to two tonnes in 1995 in Ghanaian waters, and recent reports from CECAF capture production (FAO 2008) show that the annual catches of triggerfishes show two separate peaks between 1972 and 2003. The first peak (12,563 tons) occurred in 1979, and the second peak (17,250 tons) in 1986/87. Between 1979 and 1986/87, triggerfish catch fell to regular or stable annual levels (5,000-8,000 tons/year). Catch sharply declined in 1988 to 2,862 tons. The continued decline indicates that inshore triggerfish catch generally increased with inshore effort (Aggrey-Fynn 2007). The triggerfish biomass was highest in 1985 and decreased afterwards up to 1991. The biomass decrease was quite significant from 1987-89 at virtually the same effort; and 1989-91 there was virtually no biomass of the triggerfish resource in Ghanaian coastal waters (Koranteng 1998, Aggrey-Fynn 2007).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
The species is taken as bycatch in commercial long-line and vertical line fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. There is evidence of population declines from fishing observed in Brazil (Freitas Netto and Madeira di Beneditto 2010). It has also been recorded in the diet of the invasive Lionfish, Pterois volitans (Bejarano et al. 2014).
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Vulnerable (VU) (A2d)
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Little information is available on the status of the queen triggerfish, but it is known that this striking species is a commercially important food fish (5), vulnerable to trapping and spear-fishing (6). It may also be susceptible to the detrimental impacts of changes in the abundance of its primary food source; in 1983 and 1984, the sea urchin Diadema antillarum underwent massive mortality on reefs throughout the Caribbean. Luckily, the queen triggerfish shows some resilience to such events, as it was found that the fish sought out alternative prey species (5) (7).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions

Queen Triggerfish is managed under the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan within the filefish and triggerfish Fishery Management Unit (FMU) (Federal Register, Vol. 50, No. 167: 34850-34855) in the waters of the U.S. Caribbean, which includes Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Species-specific landings have only recently begun to be available. It is a component of Commercial and Recreational fisheries in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is impacted by management efforts impacting other fisheries, including seasonal area closures, closed areas, and seasonal closures for reef fishes as well as construction and mesh-size requirements for Spiny Lobster and Reef Fish Traps. According to NOAAs Stock Sustainability Index the triggerfish and filefish Fishery Management Unit is not considered to be undergoing over-fishing and is not over-fished, therefore no rebuilding plan was designed. However, accurate estimates of stock abundance/biomass could not be developed due to data limitations (SEDAR 30 - U.S. Caribbean Queen Triggerfish Stock Assessment Report 2013).

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Conservation

The queen triggerfish occurs in a number of protected marine areas throughout its range, such as Saba Marine Park and Hol Chan Marine Reserve in the Caribbean, of which some areas are designated no-fishing zones (8).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Importance

fisheries: minor commercial; gamefish: yes; aquarium: commercial; price category: medium; price reliability: very questionable: based on ex-vessel price for species in this family
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Wikipedia

Balistes vetula

Balistes vetula, the queen triggerfish or old wife, is a reef dwelling triggerfish found in the Atlantic Ocean. It is occasionally caught as a gamefish, and sometimes kept in marine aquaria.

Description[edit]

The queen triggerfish reaches 60 cm (24 in), though most only are about half that length.[1] It is typically blue, purple, turquoise and green with a yellowish throat, and light blue lines on the fins and head.[2] It can change colour somewhat to match its surroundings, or if subjected to stress.[2]

Distribution[edit]

In the western Atlantic, it ranges from Canada to southern Brazil, and in the eastern Atlantic it is found at Ascension, Cape Verde, Azores and south to Angola.[1] It is reasonably common in Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.[2]

Ecology[edit]

The queen triggerfish is typically found at coral and rocky reefs in depths of 3–30 m (9.8–98.4 ft), but it can occur as deep as 275 m (902 ft) and sometimes over areas with sand or seagrass.[1]

It preys on a variety of invertebrates, notably sea urchins.[2]

In the aquarium[edit]

As one of the largest and most aggressive of the triggerfish, this fish is rarely a good choice as a resident in a marine aquarium. It is however a hardy fish for those who can provide it with a proper environment. Because it grows so large and so quickly the ideal aquarium for this fish is a 500 gallon aquarium. Although some sources argue it can be kept in as little a tank as 125 gallons, when it achieves its adult size of two feet it is unlikely to thrive.

Its diet consists of invertebrates. In aquariums shrimp, squid, clams, octopus, scallops, and crab are all good choices of food.

Etymology[edit]

This fish is called cochino in Cuba,[3] and this is the probable origin of the name Bahía de Cochinos, which is known as the Bay of Pigs in English.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Balistes vetula" in FishBase. June 2012 version.
  2. ^ a b c d Humann, P, and N. Deloach (2002). Reef Fish Identification: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. 3rd edition, pp. 394.
  3. ^ Claro, Rodolfo; García-Arteaga, Juan P.; Gobert, Bertrand; Cantelar Ramos, Karel (13 May 2003). "Tabla 2. Pesos y tallas mínimos legales en Cuba y proporción de peces con tallas inferiores en las capturas con chinchorros y nasas de la empresa pesquera de Caibarién." (pdf). Situación actual de los recursos pesqueros del Archipiélago Sabana-Camagüey, Cuba. Invemar. Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
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