Queen Triggerfish in Cozumel, Mexico
The queen triggerfish (Balistes vetula) is one of the most aggressive fish we often encounter in Cozumel, besides the small damsels that are extremely territorial and won’t hesitate to take a nip out of any diver who gets a bit too close; it’s probably one of the most beautiful fish in the Caribbean as well!
Queen triggerfish have small mouths but powerful jaws and strong teeth that continue to grow throughout their lives. They feed on mollusks (clams, oysters, octopus, squid, snails, etc.) crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, shrimp etc.) and and the echinoderms (sea stars, sea cucumbers and sea urchins). The hard body parts of these prey help to wear down their teeth as well.
Queen triggerfish have also developed a specialized technique for feeding on it’s favorite food, the long-spined sea urchin: It blows jets of water under the urchin to turn it over, exposing its unprotected underbelly, which is no match for the predator’s toothy attack.
True story: I once watched a large southern stingray ambush a lobster and was just beginning to eat it. (A stingray’s mouth is under its body so it covers it’s prey entirely while feeding.) It was pretty spectacular to watch this stingray catch the unsuspecting lobster off guard but, out of no where, a queen triggerfish came down from above the stingray at a steep angle like a bolt of lighting. The trigger turned sideways just before it hit the ground and skipped off of the sandy bottom sliding underneath the ray and snatched the lobster away. The stingray was understandably startled! When the ray got its whits about it and chased down the triggerfish who was tearing the lobster up. It was too late. The queen triggerfish swam off with a huge chunk of the lobster and the stingray couldn’t catch up.
That’s pretty hardcore and what I’ve come to expect from the queen triggerfishes. I love watching these particular fish!